Why Utah’s DWR wants some hunters to bring them the deer they harvest
A buck deer walks through Allen Park in Salt Lake City on August 10th. Utah wildlife officials are testing deer again this fall for chronic wasting diseases affecting deer. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)
SALT LAKE CITY – With Utah hunting season in full swing, state wildlife agencies are again asking hunters to bring their harvested deer to one of the many stations set up to test deer for chronic waste disease.
Chronic waste disease, sometimes referred to as “zombie deer disease,” is a communicable disease that affects the nervous systems of deer, elk, and moose. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources considers it “relatively rare,” but has been circulating in animals in Utah since at least 2002.
The disease is caused by a protein particle that attaches to a creature’s brain and spinal cord, causing brain lesions and other problems before the creature eventually dies. According to the department, this particle, known as a prion, also resembles mad cow disease.
This map shows the location of confirmed cases of chronic wasting in Utah from 2002 through fiscal 2020. More than 100 deer fell ill during that time. (Photo: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
The data shows that just over a dozen cases of the disease were found in deer in fiscal 2020. The disease had been found in six hunting units across the state up to this point in the year, mainly in eastern and central Utah.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there are no documented cases of chronic waste disease transmission to humans, but they still advise against eating meat that is contaminated by a prion-related disease such as chronic waste disease .
For this reason, the department is also setting up stations where hunter biologists can bring harvested deer for tests for chronic waste diseases. These stations are rotating to allow Utah biologists to sample deer in different locations to see if department officials say they have spread to a new location.
“We take the incidence of chronic waste disease seriously in Utah and will continue to conduct extensive surveillance to keep an eye on the disease and its prevalence in the state,” Ginger Stout, Utah’s wildlife veterinarian, said in a statement Wednesday.
Hunters in sampling areas can bring their harvested deer to a station, where staff can ask them questions about the location of the harvested deer, and biologists can take a deer’s lymph nodes for testing. Those who catch a deer should make sure there is about six inches of the animal’s neck and windpipe under the jaw so that biologists can remove the lymph nodes.
This year’s sampling stations are located at the following locations:
- DWR office in Cedar City (1470 N. Airport Road): Tests are by appointment only. Call 435-865-6100 to schedule an appointment.
- DWR office in Ogden (515 E. 5300 South): From 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. October 25. until October 29th and on November 1st Tests by appointment only. Call 801-476-2740 to schedule an appointment outside of these dates and times.
- The DWR price office (319 N. Carbonville Road): 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. October 25th to October 29th. Tests by appointment only. Call 435-613-3700 to schedule an appointment.
- DWR office in Salt Lake City (1594 W. North Temple): From 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. October 25th to October 29th. Tests by appointment only. Call 385-368-1672 to schedule an appointment outside of these dates.
- DWR spring office (318 N. Vernal Ave.): 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 25th to October 29th and November 1st. Tests are by appointment only. Call 435-781-9453 to make an appointment.
- Fairview area (Junction of State Route 31, State Route 264, and North Skyline Drive): October 23-25, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Fairview area (Parking just south of the intersection of State Route 31 and South Skyline Drive): October 23-25, 10am to 6pm.
- Manila area (State Route 43 between mile markers 3 and 4): From approximately 9:00 a.m. to dusk on October 23rd through October 25th.
- Mountain Green Rest Area (Westbound on I-84): From approximately 10 a.m. to dusk on October 23rd and 24th.
- Sand Ledges Recreation Area (along State Route 24 between Fishlake and Richfield): Approximately 10 a.m. to sunset on October 23rd and 24th.
- Santaquin (East side of I-15, exit 242): From October 23rd to October 25th from approx. 9:00 a.m. until dusk.
- Snowville (at Interchange I-84 and State Route 30): Approximately 10am to dusk on October 23rd and 24th.
- Spanish Fork Canyon (near the Covered Bridge community): October 23rd to October 25th, from approximately 9:00 a.m. to sunset.
- Strawberry reservoir area (The intersection of US Highway 40 and Co-op Creek Road): October 23 through October 25, from approximately 9:00 a.m. to dusk.
- Tölle: Write 385-208-6211 to schedule an appointment for a sample collection.
- Spring area (US Highway 191 at the Steinaker Reservoir rest stop): From approx. 9:00 a.m. until dark on October 23. until 25.10.
DWR officials say hunters who stay away from these target sampling units can still have deer or elk tested for chronic wasting disease if they so choose. You can take the animal’s head to either the Logan or Spanish Fork Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab locations. Unlike the sampling unit locations, there is a test fee of $ 25.