by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday it received test results confirming another case of chronic wasting disease, the first outside of the Riggins area where the illness was first detected in Idaho.
CWD is a neurological disorder similar to mad cow disease, caused by a misfolded protein that affects the brain and nervous system of cervids like deer, elk, moose and caribou.
The latest sample was taken from a mule deer buck harvested about 7 miles south of New Meadows. This is the first positive sample from the 2023 hunting season, while the department has more samples at the lab with more test results expected throughout November and December.
Fish and Game officials ask that all hunters participating in deer or elk hunts that are still open in Units 32A, 22, 23, 24, and 32 have their harvested animal tested for the disease.
“This is an unfortunate situation, but it’s why we test throughout the state for this disease,” IDFG Director Jim Fredericks said in a news release. “If it’s on the landscape, we want to know where, and we rely on hunters to provide samples so we can test for it and continue to manage to limit the spread of this disease.”
The previous 49 animals that tested positive for CWD were harvested in the Slate Creek drainage area between White Bird and Riggins, where the disease was first detected in the state in late 2021.
IDFG will likely manage this detection area differently than the 2021 initial CWD detection in Unit 14, the department said in the release, because most mule deer migrate out of Unit 32A in early November and disperse into lower-elevation winter ranges in the surrounding units.
“This situation is considerably different than Unit 14 for that reason,” Fredericks said. “In the Slate Creek area north of Riggins, most animals remain nearby year-round, but migration patterns and winter ranges of deer where this particular animal was harvested are more complex. Most animals have already moved out of the northern part of Unit 32A and will not return until spring."
Landowners in the Slate Creek drainage area in Game Unit 14 may obtain authorizations from IDFG to harvest additional deer on private lands in the monitoring focus area through Dec. 31.
IDFG is also asking people to report any road killed deer and elk in the Highway 95 corridor between Riggins and Weiser, as well as any deer or elk that appear sick. Chronic wasting disease affects the brain of infected animals, and symptoms include excessive salivation, drooping head/ears, tremors, extremely low body weight, and unusual behavior, such as showing no fear of humans and lack of coordination.
To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.
Logan Finney | Associate Producer
Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021 and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since.