As part of an ongoing effort to watch for chronic wasting disease, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking deer and elk hunters to submit tissue from animals harvested east of the Columbia River.
The fatal illness of deer and elk has not yet been detected in Washington, but it has occurred in at least 15 other states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The wildlife department has tested more than 5,000 animals here over the past 15 years in its chronic wasting disease-monitoring efforts.
Hunters can submit their harvest for chronic wasting disease testing by stopping by a wildlife hunter check station off Highway 395 near Deer Park or State Route 2 near Chattaroy on most weekends during deer seasons. Hunters can also deposit the head of the harvested animal in a marked collection bin at the laboratory building behind the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office located at 2315 N. Discovery Place in Spokane Valley, or at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council office located at 6116 N. Market St. in Spokane during office hours (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Hunters can also arrange to have the sample picked up anywhere in Spokane or Spokane Valley by calling (509) 989-6224 or in the Tri-Cities area by calling (509) 531-2691.
A tissue sample requires four inches of neck tissue attached to the head. To complete the test, lymph nodes are removed from the animal's neck.
Hunters who submit samples and complete contact-information cards will be entered into a drawing for a $200 Cabela's sporting goods store gift certificate, donated by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, which is also providing the winner a one-year council membership.
As part of the effort to keep chronic wasting disease out of Washington, state law prohibits importation of certain body parts from deer, elk or moose harvested from locations where the disease occurs. Details of those restrictions are listed on page 87 of Washington's 2011 big game hunting seasons and regulations pamphlet. The pamphlet can be viewed online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
WFWD Veterinarian Kristin Mansfield said although there is no scientific evidence at this time that the chronic wasting disease can be transmitted from deer or elk to humans, hunters should always follow basic hygienic precautions such as wearing rubber gloves while field-dressing game, and thoroughly washing hands and equipment after handling harvested animals.
For more information about the chronic wasting disease see http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/cwd/. Hunters who wish to take additional precautions may choose to avoid consuming the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, pancreas, or lymph nodes of harvested deer and elk. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife advises hunters to avoid harvesting any animal that appears sick or is behaving strangely.