Nearly 200 animal carcasses were sampled for chronic wasting disease in the Peace Region last year, with the deadly and infectious disease still being kept at bay.
Chronic wasting disease is a deadly infection similar to mad cow disease that affects the central nervous system of the deer family. Symptoms include thin appearance, drooling, poor coordination, and stumbling.
2021 is the third year that sampling will be mandatory for hunters in the Kootenays (MUs 4-1 through 4-7), says Brian Paterson, the local co-ordinator in charge of surveillance for the disease in the Peace Region.
“We want to do everything we can to keep CWD out of the province and maintain quality hunting opportunities for people,” said Paterson. “It’s really kind of a feedback system, because it’s always a fatal disease and there’s no way to test for it on a live animal, how else are we going to get our samples?”
The province has been monitoring for the disease since 2002, with a focus on the Peace and Kootenay regions as high-risk areas due to the disease's presence in Alberta and Montana.
There were 180 carcasses sampled last year using Peace River Regional District landfills as access points to collect materials for autopsy. Paterson says a baseline of 300 samples would be ideal for the Peace.
“Throughout B.C. and since 2002, I estimate we’ve taken over 7,000 samples or so, and there’s never been a case. That’s really good news,” said Paterson.
In 2018, the PRRD agreed to host sample collection sites at area landfills, and waive tipping fees for Paterson and his team to allow them to probe for the disease. Board directors voted in favour of renewing that arrangement at their Nov. 4 meeting.
Paterson says he’s grateful for the strong partnership he has with the PRRD, and hopes to educate the public further on the disease, which is transmitted between deer by fluids and excrement, or urine and feces to be precise. It can take up to two years for the animal to die once infected.
The biggest threat comes from crossings over the Alberta border, as the province is confirmed to have cases of the disease, said Paterson.
“The closest cases we know of are near Edmonton. It’s a little ways away, but if you look at maps of CWD, every year it expands further,” he said. “It’s one of things where it’s not right here, but a lot of people don’t think it’s that important for them to participate.”
“The message I’d say to those people, is that if we’re not able to get samples, then we won’t have the confidence to say that it is or isn’t here,” Paterson said.
Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts can also drop off samples at any B.C. Wildlife or Conservation Officer Service office, or the following locations:
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News