B.C. CWD Surveillance – Mandatory Submission of Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer Heads in the Highest Risk Area.
In 2019/2020, the B.C. Wildlife Health Program tested 1260 cervid heads for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) with no positive results. Species sampled were White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Black-tailed Deer, Moose, Roosevelt Elk, Rocky Mountain Elk, and Caribou. The majority of samples were from animals harvested from Region 4 – the Kootenay/Boundary – in the southeast corner of the province.
CWD surveillance in B.C. has been underway since 2002, primarily focused on high-risk areas – those that are adjacent to jurisdictions with the disease. Sampling efforts have been prioritized in the regions adjacent to Alberta, mainly the Kootenay and the Peace, where CWD is moving westward from the Saskatchewan border and is now near the city limits of Calgary and Edmonton. More recently, in 2019, CWD-positive White-tailed Deer were recognized in and around Libby, Montana, located 60 km from the already high-risk Kootenay region at the Southeast B.C. border. Targeted surveillance by Montana Parks and Wildlife has since identified a total of 61 White-tailed Deer, one Moose, and one Mule Deer in the Libby CWD Management Zone.
In response, following the Surveillance and Response Plan for CWD in B.C. (2019), the B.C. CWD Program identified the need to increase the level of confidence in the CWD status of deer populations in this region. To do so, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture created a General Order under the B.C. Animal Health Act for the mandatory submission of White-tailed Deer and Mule Deer heads in seven Wildlife Management Units along the Canada/USA border. The result of the Order was a significant increase in samples, relative to previous annual sample sizes, but it is still not enough. Although B.C. continues to be negative for this serious disease of cervids, we are repeating the General Order for the mandatory submission of harvested White-tailed Deer and Mule Deer heads. The General Order will apply to any deer harvested by a licenced hunter from September 1st, 2020 to December 20th, 2020 in Wildlife Management Units 4-1 to 4-7.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions, hunting is considered an essential service in B.C., and British Columbians are purchasing their tags for the upcoming hunting season. The B.C. Wildlife Health Program and partners are preparing a comprehensive communication campaign to increase awareness of this disease. The purpose is to enlist hunters to submit their harvested cervid heads as well as encourage anyone to report clinical suspects for sampling. Without the support from our partners and local communities this work would not be possible. Thank you to our team and to the hunting community for your contributions and continued support.
For more information and materials, visit the B.C. CWD website at www.gov.bc.ca/chronicwastingdisease
Prepared 20-July-2020 by the B.C. Wildlife Health Program