DNR confirms further spread of deer disease through Iowa


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Deer testing positive or chronic wasting disease in Iowa since 2013, via the Iowa DNR. 

Julia Poska | February 14, 2020

Forty-three deer killed by hunters and vehicles in Iowa during the 2019-2020 hunting season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, also known as “zombie deer disease.”

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Iowa’s wild deer population to 89 since 2013, according to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release. That’s a 93% increase in one year.

Chronic wasting disease is a 100% fatal neurological disease found primarily in deer and elk that causes loss of bodily functions. An abnormal protein causes the infection, spread via bodily fluids from deer to deer. Some symptoms include excessive salivation, weight loss, listlessness and drooping ears and head.

The disease is in the same family as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as Mad Cow Disease. The Centers for Disease Control reports that there is no conclusive evidence of the disease transferring to humans, but the center recommends avoiding contacts with infected venison.

The Iowa DNR collected samples from about 7,000 deer hunted or killed by cars across the state during the 2019-2020 hunting season. Samples from Woodbury, Winneshiek, Fayette and Decatur counties tested positive for the first time.

Officials have identified chronic wasting disease in wild deer populations in eight counties overall. Deer in several captive populations have tested positive as well (see this interactive map for more information).

For more information on how hunters can help limit the spread of chronic wasting disease, check out this flyer.

Researchers meeting to discuss link between lead ammunition and dying bald eagles


Researchers found 168 dead bald eagles in the upper Mississippi area for a lead exposure study. (Contributed photo)
Researchers found 168 dead bald eagles in the upper Mississippi area for a lead exposure study. (Contributed photo)

Officials in the Upper Mississippi River U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge will meet today in Prairie du Chien, Wis., to discuss recent findings which link dying bald eagles and lead ammunition.

Beginning in 2011, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Ed Britton, Sarah Warner, Mike Coffey and Drew Becker collected dead bald eagles from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. After testing the livers of 168 dead birds, they found that 48 percent came back with detectable lead concentrations. 21 percent had lethal amounts of lead, indicating lead poisoning.

The lead most likely came from the carcasses of wild game left behind by hunters using lead ammunition. According to a fact sheet by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, eagles frequently scavenge deer and pheasant carcasses, many of which contain lead fragments left behind by hunters who cleaned the carcasses on-site and left behind gut piles which may contain lead fragments. High amounts of lead can be lethal, and non-lethal exposure can cause vision and respiratory problems, leading to secondary trauma.

Lead is currently the most popular material used in shotgun ammunition because it is dense, inexpensive, readily available and soft enough not to damage vintage gun barrels, a common problem with steel ammunition. Fortunately, companies in the hunting and shooting industry have already created several non-toxic alternatives, including Tungsten-Matrix, which has nearly the same density and softness as lead, key factors hunters look for when choosing ammunition.

The meeting today in Prairie du Chien is part of a series of information sessions being held in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Quad Cities over the course of two weeks. For more information on these meetings and the effects of lead on bald eagles, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Iowa’s Deer Harvest Declined for Eighth Straight Year


Photo by Rich Herrmann; Flickr
Photo by Rich Herrmann; Flickr

For the first time since the mid-1990’s, the DNR reported that Iowa’s deer harvest has dropped below 100,000. In 2013, hunters reported 99,406 deer.

This indicates a positive response from hunters when asked to reduce the size of the herd, but now the DNR is encouraging hunters to work with landowners and base their harvest on local herd conditions.

Deer hunting provides an economic impact of almost $214 million, paying more than $15 million in federal taxes and nearly $15 million in state taxes. It also supports 2,800 jobs and provides more than $67 million in earnings.

Third case of CWD in Iowa


Photo by w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines), Flickr.
Photo by w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines), Flickr.

A third deer in Iowa has tested positive for chronic wasting diseases (CWD) — a fatal disease affecting members of the deer family.

The third positive case of CWD was found in the same Davis County hunting preserve as the first two cases.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is collecting and testing deer samples around the hunting facility. They hope to collect 300 samples.

Read more here.

Another positive test for CWD in Iowa


Photo by JaVieR PG, Flickr.
Photo by JaVieR PG, Flickr.

A second deer has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) at the same Davis County hunting preserve where the first deer tested positive.

The hunting preserve has been providing test samples to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for every deer shot at the facility.

Read more about the latest positive test here.

For more information on CWD, check out some of our previous posts: 1, 2.

CWD’s impact on Iowa


Photo by James Preston, Flickr.
Photo by James Preston, Flickr.

A couple weeks ago, Iowa Public Radio explored the impact of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Iowa.

During the radio segment you will hear from a wildlife biologist, the wildlife management supervisor of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources and Iowa state Senator Dick Dearden.

Although they explore the general impact of CWD, there’s a particular focus on the relationship between CWD and hunting in Iowa.

The radio segment is available here.

Check out some of our CWD coverage here

On the Radio: Chronic wasting disease could reach Iowa’s deer


Photo by brokinhrt2, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses Chronic wasting disease – a deadly neurological disease that affects deer, elk, and moose.

A deadly disease that affects deer, elk and moose could soon make its way to Iowa.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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