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Idaho hunters who help with CWD project may win rifles

From the Idaho Fish and Game

-- Idaho Fish and Game looks for evidence of chronic wasting disease by obtaining samples at check stations, taxidermists, meat cutters and head collection barrels throughout southeast Idaho.

These methods have not provided enough samples to meet Fish and Game's annual goal of 500 samples from deer and elk. This year, Fish and Game along with the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are working to increase sampling.

Hunters who bring their deer and elk heads to the Fish and Game Southeast Region office at 1345 Barton Road in Pocatello will receive a raffle ticket giving them a chance to win a rifle. Hunters who have their deer or elk sampled at regional deer and elk check stations will also have a chance for the rifles.

Hunters bringing in their harvested deer heads will get a chance at a .257 Weatherby Vanguard RH bolt action rifle donated by the Mule Deer Foundation.

Hunters bringing in their elk heads to be sampled will be placed in a drawing for a Marlin XL7C 25-06 with a 3-9x40mm scope donated by the Elk Foundation.

Each hunter providing a sample will get a ticket for their respective species drawing and, of course, all animals have to be legally harvested within Fish and Game's Southeast Region.

"I am hopeful our partnership with the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will boost samples this hunting season," said Corey Class, regional wildlife biologist. "We appreciate the donations from these two local groups to help bolster our CWD sampling effort."

CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in deer, elk and moose in North America. The TSEs share clinical features, pathology and presumed causes. The infectious agents are thought to be abnormal proteins called prions. According to the World Health Organization, there have been no known instances of CWD transmission to humans.

Other TSEs include scrapie in domestic sheep and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in domestic cows. TSEs cause the brain to develop a sponge-like appearance. As the disease persists, more sponge-like lesions occur in the brain and eventually the animal dies. All animals infected with CWD die of the disease.

Some symptoms of CWD include walking in a pattern, usually circular, excessive salivation, head lowered and ears drooped, and often animals will be found close to a water source. Class encourages people to report any animals exhibiting these symptoms.

"Fish and Game personnel cannot be everywhere; it is critical that the public contact us if they see a sick deer, elk, or moose," he said.

Fish and Game has been conducting surveillance for CWD since 1997 and began intensively sampling for CWD in 2003 after it was discovered in northeastern Utah. CWD has also been found in western Wyoming, most recently in a moose in 2008 in Wyoming's Star Valley.

Because of the proximity of known CWD cases to southeastern Idaho, Fish and Game has focused its CWD sampling efforts in that portion of the state.

"Different samples are taken for different animals," Class said. "The preferred sample for mule deer is the retrophareangeal lymph nodes located within the neck. The best sample for elk is the obex, which is the location where the spinal cord meets the brain."
 
In 2003, Idaho Fish and Game reached its annual goal of more than 500 samples. Since then, the southeast region has fallen short, collecting just over 300 samples annually. For more information on CWD or the gun raffle, call the Fish and Game Southeast Region office at (208)232-4703.

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