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Regional News

Idaho commission adjusts hunting season to stop spread of disease fatal to deer and elk

Elk with chronic wasting disease
Courtesy of Idaho Department of Fish and Game
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Idaho's Department of Fish and Game detected six cases of CWD last fall, five in deer, one in elk.

Idaho becomes the 28th state to confirm cases of chronic wasting disease

A fatal, highly-contagious disease that kills deer and elk has made its way to central Idaho. Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological condition caused by the same biological agents that spread mad cow disease.

The disease has been discovered in 28 states, says Rick Ward, the wildlife manager for Idaho Fish and Game. It was detected for the first time in the Gem State last fall in two deer that were killed in an area of Idaho County that’s not far from the Oregon border. It was later found in four other animals, including an elk.

“It’s something we’ve been anticipating," he said. "We share a boundary or a border with Wyoming. We share a border with Montana and Utah. All three of those states have been CWD positive for some time, Wyoming for a long time.”

The state Fish and Game Commission has adjusted the fall hunting season to try to keep the disease contained. The commission last week voted to increase the deer and elk harvest in the affected area next fall and require hunters to submit the heads of the dead animals so they can be tested.

Washington and Oregon have not yet had confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease, but Ward says it’s probably just a matter of time before it’s carried across the border.

“You look at where CWD-positive deer are at in Montana, up by Libby, that’s not very far from northeast Washington," he said. “Whether that’s through transporting contaminated carcasses or whether that’s animal-to-animal contact moving across the landscape, it’s coming," he said.