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ND – HUNTING – North Dakota braces for big increase in deer disease numbers

Chronic wasting disease in North Dakota deer appears on the verge of accelerated growth — a development expected by state wildlife officials but not necessarily this soon. Eighteen deer killed by hunters last fall tested positive for the fatal disease that strikes the nervous system in deer and also in elk and moose, according to the state Game and Fish Department. That brings the total number of deer cases since the initial discovery of the disease in North Dakota in 2009 to 44 — with 30 of them in just the past two years. “As we approach that exponential phase, that’s absolutely a cause for concern,” Game and Fish Wildlife Veterinarian Charlie Bahnson said. “Unfortunately, the pattern that’s been observed in other parts of the country, that rate of acceleration starts to increase.” It’s a looming issue in a state where tens of thousands of people hunt deer and the industry contributes tens of millions of dollars to the economy each year. Hunters are key to keeping a handle on it, according to Bahnson. The disease more commonly known by its acronym CWD has been an issue in other parts of North America for years. It’s been detected in wild deer, elk or moose in 24 states and two Canadian provinces, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center. North Dakota had been somewhat of an island — surrounded by infected areas but free of the disease — until 2009, when the first case was confirmed in a deer in the south central part of the state. Since then, 33 more cases have been documented in that hunting unit, 3F2, including 21 in the past two years, The Bismarck Tribune reported.  [full article]

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