The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is distributing free scientific collector's permits to deer hunters in northeast Iowa, to use by February 5. The state agency says it hopes to collect up to 300 samples from culled deer, information it will use to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease.
"We’re targeting in some certain sections and areas where we had some movement of the disease out from where it has been," says DNR wildlife biologist Terry Haindfield. "And we want some additional information there on the prevalence, the percentage of deer that have the disease, and also the distribution of where those positive animals are at."
Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, causes the brains and nervous systems of deer, elk and moose to deteriorate. A cervid with an advanced stage will appear emaciated and lethargic.
"None of the deer that we’ve collected that have been positive have shown these symptoms," says Haindfield. "So we are on early onset of this disease in Iowa."
The Iowa's first documented case of CWD was in 2013 in Allamakee County. The has disease existed in deer populations in states bordering east of Iowa for a longer period, and the first U.S. case was from Colorado in 1967.
Hunters with the scientific collector's permit may use shotguns, muzzleloaders, bows and rifles that are .24 caliber and larger. The normal blaze-orange clothing requirement and shooting hour restrictions apply.
Once an animal is killed, a sample is sent to Iowa State University for CWD testing. If results are positive, hunters can deliver an infected carcass to the DNR for disposal. The only parts considered safe to keep are antlers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no strong evidence of CWD being transmitted to humans. However, people are advised against eating meat from a diseased animal.