Deer disease accelerates faster than N.D. officials expected

BISMARCK, N.D. – The spread of Chronic Wasting Disease among deer in North Dakota continues to accelerate at a rate that state officials did not expect for the next several years.

According to the state Department of Game and Fish, 18 deer shot last fall tested positive for the deadly disease, up from 12 last year. The total number of cases since CWD was discovered in North Dakota in 2009 is 44, including 30 in the last two years.

As we approach this exponential phase, it’s absolutely worrying, said Charlie Bahnson, veterinarian at Game and Fish Wildlife. Unfortunately, in other parts of the country, the rate of acceleration is beginning to increase.

The disease, which affects animals’ nervous systems, has been a problem in other parts of North America for years and has been identified in deer, elk or moose in 24 states and two Canadian provinces, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center.

Since the first case of deer disease was detected in south-central North Dakota in 2009, 33 more cases (3F2) have been reported in that hunting unit, including 21 in the past two years, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

I think in a perfect world we would have thought we would see this kind of growth over the years, Banson said. He noted the large number of cases in 3F2 and said this was not unexpected but that we had hoped it would take years to achieve this increase.

Demand for deer permits in North Dakota remains high. Last year, more than 81,000 people signed up for the lottery and 69,050 permits were issued.