The Province of British Columbia announced in a recent news release that they are implementing a mandatory sampling program that requires hunters to submit the heads from deer harvested in specific areas of the Kootenays, after Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks discovered five animals with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) 60km south of the B.C. border.
Starting September 1, 2019 and ending December 20, 2019, hunters will be required to submit the heads of mule deer and white-tailed deer harvested in specific wildlife management units along the southern BC border in the Kootenay Region.
Deer heads will need to be submitted if harvested in wildlife management units 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6, and 4-7 in the East Kootenay Region.
Region 4 encompasses all of the Kootenays, from the Alberta border, west to Castlegar and Revelstoke, and North to Mica Creek. Units 4-1 through 4-7 are the southern most areas, from the Alberta border to east of Trail.
In the news release, the Province says it has been monitoring for disease since 2002, targeting the Peace and East Kootenay regions as high-risk areas for disease entry due to its presence in Alberta and Montana. No infected animals have been found in B.C. so far, however, more sampling is needed to inform any additional response.
They are also asking hunters outside of units 4-1 through 4-7 to submit to the sampling program.
“The provincial Wildlife Health Program is calling on all hunters, especially those in the Peace and East Kootenay regions, to bring deer, moose and elk heads to drop-off locations for testing,” said the news release.
Since 2002, over 3900 deer, elk and moose have been tested.
According to a spokesperson from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, the B.C. CWD program, so far, has been based on voluntary submission of tissue samples for testing and includes partnerships and outreach with B.C. First Nations, stakeholders, local businesses and other interested groups.
Surveillance has focused in areas adjacent to jurisdictions that have reported CWD.
“Before June 2019, animals susceptible to chronic wasting disease (those in the deer family), including deer, elk, moose and caribou, were considered at a low risk to develop CWD in part because of B.C.’s proactive management. The discovery of CWD near the B.C.-Montana border has caused the province to ramp up it efforts to increase surveillance and outreach within the region,” the spokesperson explained in an email.
According to an article in the Canadian Press, Health Canada notes there’s no evidence that CWD infects humans, but recommends as a preventative measure that animals known to be infected with CWD should not be consumed, and that hunters should take precautions when handling carcasses of deer, elk and moose.
Canadian Press also reported that the disease is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. These prions are transmitted through infected saliva, urine, feces, even plants and soil. Signs of infection in deer include weight loss, poor coordination, stumbling and trembling.
Drop off locations for samples include any B.C. Wildlife or Conservation Officer service office (during business hours) as well as several locations in the Peace and Kootenay regions including:
Gwinner’s Country Butcher, Kimberley
Rick’s Fine Meats, Cranbrook
Wes’s Country Meats, Fernie
North Peace Rod and Gun Club, Fort St John
Peace Taxidermy, Hwy 29
Richard’s Meat, Pouce Coupe
Anyone encountering an animal exhibiting the symptoms of Chronic Wasting Disease (thin, drooling, poor coordination, stumbling) should report it to the provincial Wildlife Health Program at 250-751-3219 or the Report all Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-7277.
For more information on Chronic Wasting Disease in B.C., and for drop-off locations and instructions, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/chronicwastingdisease.ca