Hunters’ Help Sought to Keep Fatal Wildlife Disease Out of Ontario

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Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

TORONTO: The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be conducting its annual Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance program through the fall and winter of 2020, and is asking hunters to submit deer samples in an effort to detect and stop the potential spread of the disease.

Hunter submissions of samples from harvested deer are critical in Ontario’s efforts to detect CWD – a fatal, untreatable brain disease that affects members of the deer family, including white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and caribou.

It has not been found in wildlife in Ontario, but it is present in 26 U.S. states, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and in Québec, where it was discovered in a deer farm close to the Ontario border.

The ministry will be doing surveillance in southwestern Ontario in Wildlife Management Units 94A, 94B, 93A, 93B, 93C, 92B, and 92C and in eastern Ontario in Wildlife Management Unit 65 from October until the end of December.

During the fall hunt, wildlife research technicians will canvas the surveillance areas and visit local hunters and hunt camps. They will ask the hunter’s permission to remove a small amount of tissue from the deer head for analysis.

Sampling will not prevent hunters from consuming the meat or having the head-mounted. All bow and firearm hunters are invited to take the head of their deer (preferably within a few days of being harvested) to an MNRF freezer depot. Depots will be open from October to the end of December.

Hunters submitting a deer head are asked to provide their contact information, the date and general location of harvest. Fawns under one year of age will not be tested as this disease is unlikely to be detected in young animals.

If you see a wild animal showing signs of CWD, such as severe loss of body weight, tremors, stumbling, or lack of coordination, report it to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-673-4781 or Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Natural Resources Information and Support Centre at 1-800-667-1940.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, additional health and safety measures will be put into place using the best available information from Public Health Ontario to deliver this program safely and minimize risk to staff and the public.

The ministry will continue to follow public health guidelines. Any updates will be available online at ontario.ca/cwd.

• Each hunter who provides a tissue sample from a deer taken in the surveillance area will be given a participation crest.

• Hunters can find locations to drop off samples, see their test results and learn more about symptoms at ontario.ca/cwd

• In 2019, MNRF collected 449 samples from hunters during regular surveillance operations. CWD was not detected in any of the samples tested.

• Since 2002, the ministry has tested over 13,000 hunter-harvested white-tailed deer in Ontario. CWD has not been detected in any of the samples tested.

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