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Idaho State News

F&G will reduce deer herds in Slate Creek to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease

Idaho Fish & Game

Fish and Game will start a project on Feb. 13 to reduce deer density in the Slate Creek area in Unit 14 north of Riggins and east of U.S. 95 in an effort to minimize the spread of chronic wasting disease into adjacent areas. 

CWD is a contagious and fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. There is no cure, vaccination, or efficient and reliable CWD test for live, wild animals. CWD is long lived in the environment and can be contracted by animals simply foraging in an area with CWD in the soil. If left unchecked, the disease poses a long-term risk to deer and elk herds and hunting opportunities. 

Fish and Game will provide special permits to landowners to kill deer on their property. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services staff who have experience with similar projects, will assist Fish and Game staff in shooting deer on public land. 

For this deer removal operation, methods not typically used for hunting will be allowed, including baiting and shooting at night. Because most deer are expected to be on private land, permits will be issued exclusively to landowners, and there will be no public hunting opportunity for this project. 

“We need to get this underway while deer are still concentrated at lower elevation and before they start migrating in the spring,” said Rick Ward, Fish and Game’s State Wildlife Manager. “We are saddened that we are in the position that we have to do this, but it’s necessary to suppress the spread of CWD to protect deer and elk herds in adjacent areas where it could spread even farther from there.”

All deer taken will be tested for CWD. Elk, which are less susceptible to CWD, will not be targeted, but around 12 elk may be taken from the area for additional CWD sampling. 

Animals collected by Fish and Game and Wildlife Services that test negative for CWD will be processed and the meat donated to a local food bank. Landowners may also provide carcasses to Fish and Game for processing and donation. All potentially infectious carcass parts, including heads and spinal column, will be collected and transported by Fish and Game to be disposed of in an approved landfill.

Fish and Game sampled 3,171 deer, elk and moose for CWD statewide in 2022, and all 15 positive cases were detected in a 6-mile radius within the Slate Creek drainage. The disease was first detected in Idaho in 2021 in the Slate Creek area. The project area will encompass the Slate Creek watershed from the Salmon River east to Nut Basin Road and the southern portion of the McKinzie Creek watershed south to the northern portion of the John Day Creek watershed. The project area encompasses less than 9 percent of Unit 14. 

The project is expected to last six to seven weeks, or until control actions are deemed no longer effective or feasible. Carcasses that test positive for CWD, and other carcass parts of animals taken in the operation, will be taken by Fish and Game staff to be transported and disposed of in an approved landfill in Montana.