The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks organization recently released an action plan draft to deal with Chronic Wasting Disease in the Mt. Rushmore State. CWD, as it’s referred to from those who study it, is a prion disease that exists among the free ranging deer and elk. This particular disease affects the neurological system of the species through the brain and spinal cord.
South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Wildlife Program Administrator Chad Switzer said this disease, unfortunately, leads to death…always!
It was first diagnosed in the wild deer of South Dakota in 2001.
“It was first documented in 1967 in a captive mule deer facility that was operated and research being conducted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. So the scientific community has known about it for almost 50 years,” said Switzer. “It was first detected in South Dakota in captive elk herds in 1997. Then again we did not confirm it in our wild deer until 2001, during the hunting season at that time.”
This new action plan is an effort to educate and inform South Dakotans on how to identify the symptoms of a deer or elk with CWD.
“Some of the symptoms you see later on, on that individual, would be typical things you see from other diseases, loss of weight and poor body condition,” explained Switzer. “Their behavior's going to change. They may not show any fear to humans or other things. They might be salivating and typically, because it’s neurological, lose a fair amount of muscle control.”
Last year, 25% of the harvested male deer within Custer State Park tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, which Switzer said is incredibly alarming.
“Just try to think about this long-term – fifty years, one-hundred years from now, how are our [future hunters] going to be impacted potentially by this when it comes to sustainability of deer and elk populations in this state,” exclaimed Switzer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to date there have been no reported cases of Chronic Wasting Disease infecting people. However, some of their studies have shown that CWD could potentially present a risk towards ‘non-human types of primates, like monkeys.’
Another aspect of the GF&P action plan is to encourage hunters, processors, and taxidermists to properly dispose of deer carcass remains. Especially since, right now, there’s no clear solution to getting rid of CWD.
“We know we cannot get rid of CWD. At least we don’t know a way right now,” explained Switzer. “Whether you’re harvesting an individual elk or deer from an endemic area or not, just try to properly dispose of that individual at a licensed landfill. Or, if your waste management provider, so your garbage hauler, will take carcass remains, we’d ask hunters to do that.”
Chronic Wasting Disease is mostly found in the upper areas of North America, which includes Canada and upper areas of the United States.
To learn more about the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks action plan on Chronic Wasting Disease, click here. Below are listed dates towards the implementation of the action plan.
May 5: End of public comment period on 1st draft
May 13: CWD stakeholder group meeting
May 14: Internal CWD Workgroup
June 6-7 GFP Commission Meeting— present summary of modifications incorporated from public comment and provide 2nd draft to Commission for review and additional public comment
July 8-9: GFP Commission Meeting—ask GFP Commission for adoption of final draft and present Department recommendations related to applicable administrative rules
September 5-6: GFP Commission Meeting—ask GFP Commission to finalize proposed rule changes and follow-up with implementation of action plan