The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday it will hold a second special harvest in northeast Iowa to collect deer that can be tested for chronic wasting disease.
The state hopes to collect up to 300 samples from mature deer in Clayton County from Saturday to March 5. The state asks hunters, who will receive special scientific licenses, to focus on an area about 10 miles west of Elkader.
It’s the second special harvest this year. The first, held near Harper’s Ferry in Allamakee County, ended Feb. 5.
Ten wild deer in Allamakee County tested positive for chronic wasting disease last year, bringing the total to 16 since 2013. An additional one was found during the special collection earlier this month.
A wild deer tested positive for the disease in neighboring Clayton County last year. Both counties are popular deer-hunting destinations.
The state said it’s monitored for the disease since it first arrived in neighboring Wisconsin in 2001.
An abnormal protein, called a prion, attacks the brain of an infected animal, causing it to lose weight, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. The disease is spread from animal to animal through nose-to-nose contact and through environmental contamination from urine, feces and saliva left by positive deer.
“It is nearly impossible kill the prion and the disease is always fatal,” according to Dale Garner, DNR’s conservation and recreation division chief. He met with about 375 hunters for three hours in Elkader earlier this week.
The state will test lymph nodes from the deer taken in the special harvest. DNR asks hunters to not eat the meat until the tests show it’s free from disease.
The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend hunters not eat meat from deer testing positive for chronic wasting disease, and that hunters wear protective gloves while field-dressing game.
It is not believed that humans can contract chronic wasting disease by eating venison, the state says.
Since 2002, Iowa DNR has tested more than 61,000 samples from wild deer and 4,000 samples from hunting preserve deer.
In addition to Wisconsin, deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin.