Since 1996, a deadly neurodegenerative disease of cervids (deer, elk, moose, caribou, reindeer) has been spreading across Canada.
- Since 1996, a deadly neurodegenerative disease of cervids (deer, elk, moose, caribou, reindeer) has been spreading across Canada.
- On Jan. 31, 2024, chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected for the first time in British Columbia in two deer.
- The protein is similar to other normal proteins in the body, except it’s abnormally shaped.
- The abnormal folding of these disease-causing prion proteins — which are found most abundantly in the brain — leads to brain damage that makes the brain appear like a sponge.
- Other TSEs include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people, bovine-spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”) in cows, and scrapie in sheep and goats.
- This means that early detection and management is critical for reducing the impact of this disease.
British Columbia’s preparations
- has established a surveillance program to detect CWD as soon as possible.
- Our research suggests that a robust approach to such a difficult disease will require rapid, collective and collaborative action across sectors.
- This approach must involve wildlife managers, hunters, local communities, First Nations and researchers to integrate a number of approaches.
Surveillance and management
- Many CWD management programs rely on removing infected animals from the landscape.
- While it is mandatory to submit the heads from hunted cervids in select management units in B.C., in most regions, submission is voluntary.
- Hunters can participate in CWD management and surveillance by removing the head of the animal and submitting it to a local testing station or freezer for CWD testing.
- The public can also participate in CWD surveillance and management by reporting signs of sick animals and vehicle collisions with cervids.
- This is why testing cervids that have been killed by vehicles is also a critical component of CWD surveillance and management.
Curbing the spread
- CWD can spread between animals through contact with bodily fluids.
- Legal restrictions on carcass transport and the use of urine-based scents in hunting can also reduce the unintentional spread of CWD.
- Research has shown that community-focused communication and engagement are essential for the success of CWD management efforts.
- In the days ahead, fostering open dialogue and collaboration will be paramount towards an effective and sustainable effort against CWD.
Kaylee Byers is the Regional Deputy Director of the British Columbia Node of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and collaborates with the Wildlife Health Program, which leads Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance in British Columbia. Sarah Robinson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.