“We have a spark here, and we want to put it out before it becomes a fire”
Orlan Love, The Gazette
February 17, 2015 | 9:29 pm
HARPERS FERRY — An unprecedented special deer hunt will likely be conducted near here in the coming weeks to gather tissue samples for additional testing for the always-fatal chronic wasting disease.
“We have a spark here, and we want to put it out before it becomes a fire,” Dale Garner, chief of the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau, told more than 100 people gathered here Tuesday in the community center.
A similar audience gathered for a second status report last night in Waukon.
Following the state’s first CWD-positive test in a wild deer in 2013, three more were confirmed during the recently concluded deer season — all within a 5-mile radius near Harpers Ferry.
Those three positives made up about 1 percent of the 309 samples collected within that area.
Garner said he believes the infected deer crossed the Mississippi River from Wisconsin, where more than 2,800 infected deer have been confirmed since 2001.
The disease is still spreading in Wisconsin, where biologists estimate that more than 35 percent of male whitetails and more than 18 percent of females are infected, according to Garner.
“Doing nothing is an option, but you know what’s going to happen here if you do nothing,” he said.
Garner said DNR biologists want to collect additional samples from a 31-square-mile target area generally west of Harpers Ferry. About one-third of the target area lies within the Yellow River State Forest.
“We need to pinpoint the scope of the problem. That information will help us determine the next step, if a next step becomes necessary,” he said.
The tissue samples required to diagnose chronic wasting disease cannot be extracted from live animals.
During a public input session, hunters, landowners and other residents expressed approval of a proposal to harvest and collect samples from 150 to 200 deer, possibly starting within a week.
Though details have yet to be finalized, Garner said scientific collector permits would be issued to participants.
It would be “tightly controlled initiative,” said Jim Jansen, the DNR’s northeast Iowa wildlife supervisor.
Dick Riese, a Postville veterinarian and deer hunter, said the proposal “is a good start.”
“This is a serious situation. It’s here, and it’s going to keep spreading unless we do something about it,” Riese said.