A progressive, fatal and degenerative neurological disease, CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) was first identified in Colorado in the late 1960s when a series of tests was performed on a herd of captive mule deer. Though the disease, which affects North American animals like mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose, didn't create any serious headlines at first, things changed in 1981 when the disease was discovered in free-ranging Colorado deer.
By the mid-1990s, CWD had wildlife biologists and wildlife managers in Colorado and southeastern Wyoming on high alert. Experts feared the disease would soon spread, and spread it has. Today, CWD has been found in areas outside what was once dubbed the "disease-endemic zone." Animals testing positive for CWD have been discovered in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Missouri and Illinois – and the list goes on.
The disease was discovered in Iowa – heralded as the "white-tailed deer capital of the world" – in 2012 after tests were conducted on a buck deer harvested inside a southeast Iowa hunting preserve. An investigation into the reserve revealed the deer had recently been introduced from a captive deer herd in north-central Iowa.
The above-mentioned north-central captive deer herd was immediately quarantined to prevent the spread of CWD, and the herd has remained inside its 8-foot-high enclosure since 2012. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the depopulation of the quarantined herd took place August 25-27, 2014.
A joint effort between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, USDA Veterinary Services and USDA Wildlife Services, the depopulation showed that 284 of the 356 deer, or 79.8 percent of the herd, tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.
Once the depopulation was complete and the premises had been cleaned and thoroughly disinfected, indemnity of $917,100 from the USDA has been or will be paid to the owners as compensation for the 356 captive deer that were put down.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship operate a voluntary CWD program for farms that sell live animals. Currently, 145 Iowa farms participate in the voluntary program. To qualify for the program and the funding that comes with it, all harvested "farm"deer must be tested for CWD upon harvest.
For more information, visit www.agriculture.state.ia.us.