MNRF requesting deer heads from hunters

A hunter shows off her deer harvested on Manitoulin. Hunters this year are encouraged to drop off their deer heads for CWD testing.

Will test for chronic wasting disease in Island herd

MANITOULIN—Manitoulin will be hosting a Chronic Waste Disease Surveillance Program (CWD) on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) this fall with depot stations set up at Manitoulin Streams in Manitowaning, the Bridal Veil Esso in Kagawong, at the MNRF volunteer deer check station in Espanola (typically held in the mall parking lot) during the rifle season.

“Hunters can drop off their deer heads so that they can be tested for CWD,” explained Manitoulin Streams Coordinator Seija Deschenes. “The deer heads are placed into bags, labeled and placed into a freezer which will be picked up and sent to Guelph for sampling for CWD. They want to see if the disease has made its way onto the Island. The MNRF is looking for hunters to volunteer to drop off the deer heads to be tested. When the hunter brings in the deer head they will fill out a form with information about where they harvested the deer and they will received a crest in exchange.”

Larissa Nituch, senior wildlife research technician with the MNRF, said that the location of the CWD surveillance program varies each year based on a number of factors and was last held here in 2008.

“There is no evidence that it is present in Ontario or on Manitoulin, but it is an important program to ensure that it isn’t,” said Ms. Nituch.

CWD is a fatal brain disease of white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer. It has not been found in Ontario but it is present in deer and elk in Alberta, Sasktachewan and in several States. It has also been found in moose.

“CWD is thought to be spread by close contact between animals,” states an information sheet from the MNRF. “It usually takes months to years from when an animal is infected to when it starts to show symptoms. Symptoms include poor body condition, tremors, stumbling, increased salivation, difficulty swallowing and excessive thirst or urination.”

“There is currently no scientific evidence that CWD can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating the infected animals,” the information sheet continues. “However, public health officials encourage hunters not to consume meat from CWD-infected animals. Hunters should take precautions when field dressing and processing deer and elk to protect themselves against diseases and parasites.”

Ms. Nituch said that deer heads can be dropped off at the check station November 23 to 26 in Espanola or at Manitoulin Streams (Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) or the Bridal Veil Esso (weekdays from 7 am to 9 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 9 pm) from now until November 26.

The CWD test results will be posted online so hunters can find out the results. For more information hunters can visit, www.ontario.ca/CWD.