SANDPOINT — The Idaho Department of Fish & Game is collecting samples from deer at hunter check stations across the Panhandle over two weekends in November as part of a statewide surveillance program from chronic wasting disease.
The check stations will be operated Nov. 16-17 and Nov. 23-24, from 10 a.m. to sunset. The stations will be located at:
• Priest River — State Highway 57
• Samuels — U.S. Highway 95
• St. Maries — State Highway 3
Chronic wasting disease is a contagious, fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. Samples are being collected on a voluntary basis by removing lymph nodes, located near the base of the jaw, from deer.
Fish & Game has also set up freezers at two locations in the Panhandle to collect heads from hunters who wish to have their deer sampled. Each freezer has instructions attached to it and information tags are to be filled out for each head. All heads should be kept cool or frozen until transferred to a freezer.
The freezers are located at the Waterlife Discovery Center, located 1591 Lakeshore Drive in Sagle, and Far North Outfitters on South Main in Bonners Ferry. Hunters can also bring deer into Fish & Game’s Regional Office in Coeur d’Alene from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday to have samples taken.
“Testing will take approximately four to six weeks after samples are submitted. For deer sampled at check stations or the Regional Office, hunters will be given a business card with a unique barcode number on it,” said Micah Ellstrom, a regional wildlife manager for Fish & Game.
This number can then be entered into the website idfg.idaho.gov/cwd/lookup, where status updates and final testing results will be posted. Hunters that submit heads in freezers will only be contacted if a sample is positive.
Fish & Game began testing for chronic wasting disease in 1997 and has never detected the disease in Idaho. However, neighboring states Montana, Utah and Wyoming have confirmed chronic wasting disease-positive animals close to the Idaho border. In the summer of 2019, several white-tailed deer sampled in Libby, Montana tested positive for the disease.
“Nearly 100 samples were collected in the Panhandle from August to November 2019 thanks in part to interested hunters supporting these monitoring efforts,” said Ellstrom.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.