TORONTO: The government of Ontario will be conducting its annual Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance program through the fall and winter of 2021, and is asking hunters to submit deer samples in an effort to allow for early CWD detection should the disease enter the province.
Hunter submissions of samples from harvested deer are critical in efforts to detect CWD – a fatal, untreatable brain disease that affects members of the deer family, including white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou.
It has not been found in wildlife in Ontario, but it has been found in 26 U.S. states, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and in Québec, where it was discovered in a deer farm close to the Ontario border in 2018.
In 2021, the ministry will be doing surveillance in southwestern Ontario in Wildlife Management Units 85C, 86B, 87A, 87B, 87C, 87D, 87E, 90B, 91A, 91B, 92A and 92D and in eastern Ontario in Wildlife Management Unit 65 from October until the end of December.
During the fall hunt, wildlife research technicians will be taking extra health and safety measures due to COVID-19 when they canvas the surveillance areas and visit local hunters and hunt camps.
They will ask the hunter’s permission to remove a small amount of tissue from the deer head for analysis. Sampling will not prevent hunters from consuming the meat or having the head mounted. All bow and firearm hunters are invited to take the head of their deer (preferably within a few days of being harvested) to an NDMNRF freezer depot.
Depots will be open from October to the end of December. Hunters submitting a deer head are asked to provide their contact information, the date and general location of harvest.
Fawns under one year of age will not be tested as this disease is unlikely to be detected in young animals. If you see a wild animal showing signs of CWD, such as severe loss of body weight, tremors, stumbling, or lack of coordination, report it to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-866-673-4781 or the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry’s Natural Resources Information and Support Centre at 1-800-667-1940.
• The first 500 hunters in each zone who provide a tissue sample from a deer taken in the surveillance area will be given a participation crest. The ministry will continue to follow public health guidelines.
• Hunters can find locations to drop off samples, see their test results and learn more about symptoms at ontario.ca/cwd
• In 2020, NDMNRF collected 742 samples from hunters during regular surveillance operations. CWD was not detected in any of the samples tested.
• Since 2002, the ministry has tested over 13,600 hunter-harvested white-tailed deer in Ontario. CWD has not been detected in any of the samples tested.