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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Sports >  Outdoors

Idaho deer cull, aimed at containing CWD, going well per officials

A white-tailed deer buck surveys the area.   (IDFG/courtesy)
A white-tailed deer buck surveys the area. (IDFG/courtesy)
By Eric Barker The Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON – More than 150 deer were killed during the first week of an Idaho Fish and Game operation designed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.

According to a news release from the agency, sharpshooters from the federal Wildlife Services agency and private landowners holding special permits shot and killed 157 deer in the Slate Creek drainage as of Monday.

“Despite the unfortunate circumstances, things are going very smoothly,” said J.J. Teare, supervisor of Fish and Game’s Clearwater Region at Lewiston.

The contagious and fatal neurological disease was found in the drainage in the fall of 2021. Recent testing revealed about 10% of the deer in the Slate Creek area south of White Bird are infected. The agency hopes to contain it there.

To do so, it is attempting to dramatically reduce the density of deer within a 36,200-acre zone centered around Slate Creek and between John Day and McKenzie Creeks. Landowners in the area were issued kill permits and many of them granted the federal sharpshooters access to their property. Since it is not a hunt, baiting and night shooting have been approved.

Teare estimated there are 400 to 500 deer in the area. The goal is to remove as many of those animals as possible. All of the deer killed are being tested and their meat is being preserved. The carcasses of animals that test negative are being donated to a local food bank. Infected carcasses are being disposed of in a CWD-approved landfill in Montana.

The disease has not been found elsewhere in Idaho but is present in 29 states and three Canadian provinces. It is caused by misfolded proteins known as prions and can infect deer, elk and moose. Animals with the disease shed prions which can persist on the landscape for several years.

Infected animals slowly lose brain function and eventually die. The disease reduces deer numbers in states where it is present and because fewer animals live long enough to become mature, alters herd age structure.

While it is similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, CWD has never been documented to infect people. Even so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against eating the meat of deer that are known to be infected.

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