In an effort to prevent the spread of a deadly disease in the Kootenay region, hunters will be required to submit the heads from deer harvests for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing.

The Government of B.C. recently announced a mandatory sampling program for hunters in southeastern B.C. so that deer, elk and moose populations can be monitored for CWD, which was first reported near Libby, Mont. in June of 2019.

“It’s only mandatory for any deer harvested in wildlife management units 4-1 to -7 in the Kootenay region,” said Helen Schwantje, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development in an e-mail to the Pioneer. “The reason why is that the disease is present across the border (within 60 km) in Montana and we want to know as soon as possible if it enters B.C.”

CWD is a fatal nervous system disease that affects members of the deer family. It is caused by an abnormal protein when healthy animals come into contact with infected soil, food, water or animals.

The provincial wildlife health program has been monitoring the disease since 2002, especially in high-risk regions like the Kootenays and the Peace River region. Hunters are being encouraged to submit animal heads to designated CWD testing sites due to its prominence in Alta. and Mont. so far.

“We’ve been really trying to manage and help the elk population in the Findlay creek area,” Barb Coté, Shuswap Indian Band chief said about the announcement. “We’ve been asking First Nations hunters to stay hunting within the seasons, so I think it’s good the province is catching it early.”

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