CWD confirmed south of TransCanada

Following the 2009 hunting season, the province of Saskatchewan received 3,200 deer heads to sample for chronic wasting disease.

Testing, not quite complete, has shown 38 new positive cases within Saskatchewan in 2009.

It is a provincial sampling effort, although it cannot be enforced "we certainly ask for (hunters') participation," said Penny Lalonde, provincial licensing specialist.

The monitoring and surveillance of the disease through harvesting the animals helps keep the numbers low enough so the prevalence stays low, she added.

In Saskatchewan, 2008 monitoring practices also revealed three positive cases in elk, but there haven't been anymore since then, according to numbers provided by the fish and wildlife branch of the ministry of environment.

In Alberta, as of Jan. 15, 2468 heads had been tested since Sept. 1, 2009 and revealed seven new cases of CWD in wild deer. The total is now 69 confirmed cases of CWD in wild deer in Alberta.

Although a case of the disease was found on an Alberta farmed elk in 2002 it has not yet been found in the wild populations, noted Darcy Whiteside, spokesperson for the Ministry of sustainable Resource Development.

Alberta concentrates their sampling along the border region with Saskatchewan from north of Lloydminster to south of the TransCanada Highway and identifys the zones as mandatory deer head submission.

Last year, the first case was found north of Lloydminster and this year, the first case was discovered below Highway 1, noted Whiteside. The majority of cases have been found near Empress and Edgerton.

In Saskatchewan, three clusters of CWD areas have been identified near Nipawin, Lloydminster and North Battleford and the South Saskatchewan River north of Swift Current.

The surrounding wildlife management zones were designated as earn-a-buck zones in 2009, which means hunters must turn in two doe heads before receiving a buck tag. It is the first year the wildlife management
Zone 45 near North Battleford was identified in the program.

It is very difficult to say if the disease is increasing in prevalence or not, said Yeen Ten Hwant, wildlife health specialist with the fish and wildlife branch, because the calculation is dependent upon the number of samples submitted in a year.

"It has been holding steady between 1.5 and two per cent," said Hwant. Working with neighbouring jurisdictions in Canada and the States is important for understanding CWD, noted Whiteside and Hwang.
"We know that it is not a disease that is not a natural part of the Alberta Ecosystem, environment, habitat," added Whiteside.

They need to also consider how hunters actions can assist with the disease management as well, he said.
For example, looking at proper techniques to ensure transmission doesn't happen when transferring the meat and moving the meat, carcasses, hides and heads around.

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