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Washington groups try to keep a fatal wildlife disease out of the state

Idaho is one of 31 states that has reported cases of chronic wasting disease. Washington is not.
Courtesy Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Idaho is one of 31 states that has reported cases of chronic wasting disease. Washington is not.

Chronic wasting disease is an illness that attacks the central nervous system in deer and is 100% fatal. It has been detected in 31 states, including Idaho, but not yet in Washington.

Two Washington organizations are working together to keep it that way. They hope to persuade hunters to help them determine how much of a threat it might be here.

The science indicates that the illness does not pose a threat to humans who consume deer meat. But the groups suggest it's not something they should seek out.

“The encouragement is that you don't eat the meat, and to get it tested to see if your cervid has it, but ultimately right now, it is not considered to be a threat to humans," said Josh Wilund from the Washington chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a group that is teaming up with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to encourage hunters who bag a deer to get their meat tested this year for chronic wasting disease.

While the disease hasn't yet been detected in Washington, getting a better handle on its presence will help researchers understand the nature of the problem.

Wilund says it's easy to get a small sample tested. He says the best way is to visit Fish and Wildlife's website and search for chronic wasting disease. There are directions for how you can submit a sample. Sampling kiosks have been set up around the state.

And there's even more incentive for you to get a sample taken. According to the agency, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers of Washington helped pay for 100 multi-season deer tags. Anyone who submits a sample gets entered into a pool for a drawing for a multi-season deer tag for next hunting season. Those tags allow for hunting with either archery, black powder or modern firearms. The highly desirable tags are usually sold only through a lottery system.