'Zombie deer disease' confirmed in two northeastern Iowa counties, DNR reports

Chronic Wasting Disease was first identified in captive deer in the late ‘60s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981. (Source: MGN)
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Natural Resouces says chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in wild deer in Woodbury, Winneshiek, Fayette and Decatur counties.

Chronic Wasting Disease is also known as 'zombie deer disease.' It causes the deer's body to waste away.

“We will schedule meetings in these areas in the next few months to discuss chronic wasting disease, our response and the role hunters play in helping us to manage for this disease,” said Tyler Harms, a wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR.

The DNR said it has set up surveillance areas in places where positive deer have been taken. Officials then work with hunters to increase samples collected within the areas to get an idea of the disease's activity on the ground.

“Early detection is key,” Harms said. “We want to increase the surveillance in close proximity to the positive deer to hopefully catch any other positives in the area. In these surveillance zones, we want to manage our deer herd toward the lower end of our population goal to help slow disease transmission.”

DNR officials said they sent thousand of deer tissue samples for testing from hunter-harvested or road-killed deer in the 2019-2020 season. It resulted in 43 positive deer.

“While the number of positives this year jumps out, it’s not out of the realm of what we would expect,” Harms said.

The Iowa DNR said hunters who harvest deer in counties known to have chronic wasting disease should bone out their deer and leave the carcass on the land where it was harvested.

"Contact the local landfill for requirements. Make absolutely sure not to transport and dump carcasses outside of the area where the deer were shot as this will spread the disease to new areas," the DNR said.

The Iowa DNR started testing for chronic wasting disease in 2002. The first positive case came from Harpers Ferry in Allamakee County in 2013. To date, there have been 89 positive wild deer.

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