Game and Fish expect to test more than 2,500 deer heads for CWD

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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is collecting deer heads from hunters, in order to continue testing and surveillance of Chronic Wasting Disease in the state.

The Game and Fish Department has set up more than 100 collection sites around the state.

Hunters voluntarily drop off the deer heads, where they are brought to Bismarck for CWD research.

A silent killer among deer in North Dakota.

"There is no way to tell if it is infected, you can’t say, that's a healthy looking animal, it must be free of CWD. The only thing we can do is test it after it is dead," said Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian.

Data is collected through lymph nodes located in the neck.

"You can see it right there, as you dig it out it gets bigger," said Bahnson.

Once removed, the samples are shipped to Colorado for testing

"This year were using Colorado State, they do a really intensive bench top laboratory test to look for the agent in it," said Bahnson.

With heads being sent in from around the state, Game and Fish is able to monitor the disease, and surveillance affected areas.

"We'll have about 2,500 heads total this year," said Bahnson.

Those who take the time to donate hope this testing will be beneficial to the future.

"Monitor it, and hopefully keep it from spreading," said Larry Thompson, hunter from Bismarck.

Once the disease infects an area, there is no cure.

"There's no way to really get it off a landscape or out of a deer herd once it’s here you only try to slow it down," said Bahnson.

Which prompts Game and Fish to rely on hunters to turn in heads.

"It’s important to test as many as possible and they only way to do that is by the hunters bringing them in and participating," said Katie Schlafke, Outdoors Skills instructor with Game and Fish.

Cooperating with this program is in the best interest of hunters because preventing the spread of CWD means more healthy animals in the field.

The department is asking for hunters to continue dropping off the heads, in order to see where CWD is and isn't.

For a list of drop-off locations you can visit https://gf.nd.gov/