Thunder Bay

Chronic Wasting Disease testing comes to northwestern Ontario

Some deer that are harvested around Thunder Bay, and in western parts of Northwestern Ontario, can be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease this fall. Chronic Wasting Disease - CWD - is fatal and untreatable and affects the central nervous system of members of the deer family. There is no cure and no vaccine to prevent the disease has the potential to severely reduce cervids populations.

Five wildlife management units in NWO to have deer sampled for deadly brain disease

Hunters in the northwest who bring in a deer head to be tested this fall will receive this crest for participating. (photo: OMNRF)

Some deer that are harvested around Thunder Bay, and in western parts of northwestern Ontario, will be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) this fall.

CWD is fatal and untreatable, affecting the central nervous system of members of the deer family.

The battle to keep Chronic Wasting Disease out of Ontario is coming to the northwest. Our outdoor columnist Gord Ellis has the details of what the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry plans to do. 8:15

There is no cure and no vaccine to prevent the disease, which has the potential to severely reduce deer, moose and elk populations.

In 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has set up drop off sites in various communities including Rainy River, Dryden, Vermilion Bay, Emo, Fort Frances, Nipigon, Pass Lake and Thunder Bay.

The MNRF said CWD surveillance also occurred with drop off depots in Northwestern Ontario in 2010, 2009, and 2006.

The depots are open from September to December.

Samples are needed from yearlings, does, and bucks.

Fawns under one year of age will not be tested as this disease is less likely to be detected in young animals

 D and R Sporting Goods owner Adrian Hagar, whose store has an outdoor freezer supplied by the ministry to collect heads from hunters, said he is happy to help, though he feels many hunters don't realize the program has come to the region.

Adrian Hagar says hunters in Thunder Bay can bring deer heads to his store for use as CWD testing samples. (photo: Gord Ellis/CBC)

"We are trying to spread the word. There wasn't much put out by the ministry. So I think right now we have about a half dozen heads. And we are just hitting the prime time for deer hunting," he said.

The OMNRF said it will be conducting chronic wasting disease monitoring for CDW in five wildlife management units in northwestern Ontario.

Wildlife technicians will be testing deer harvested in WMU's 8, 9A, 9B, 10 and 13.

In response to the recently detected cases of chronic wasting disease on a farm in Quebec, comprehensive chronic wasting disease monitoring will also occur in wildlife management units 65 and 64B, in eastern Ontario.

Hagar said hunters who help out with the monitoring program receive an attractive crest that features a whitetail buck.

But first they have to fill out some information.

Hunters will be asked to provide basic information about their deer and where they were harvested, as well as contact information. Those taking part will receive the 2019 CWD Surveillance crest. (photo: Gord Ellis/CBC)

"The yellow tag is for the hunter....their name, phone number, the date and the area they killed the deer, and matched with it is a number which is given to the hunter so they can follow up online for the results on the ministry web site," he said."The crest dates the year, says CWD surveillance and is just a little thank you from the ministry for being part of the program."

The first 500 hunters in each surveillance area who provide a tissue sample from a deer taken in that area will be provided a participation crest.

According to the province's CWD website, in selected regions, roving crews of ministry wildlife research technicians will visit hunt camps and request samples from harvested deer. The research technicians will ask the hunter's permission to remove a small tissue sample from the head area of the deer for analysis. All deer will be returned to the hunter. Sampling will not prevent hunters from consuming the meat or having the head mounted.

The ministry said freezer deposits must be made as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours of harvest. If the sample cannot be dropped off within 48 hours, it is suggested you freeze the head and bring it to the depot frozen.

The ministry said Chronic Wasting Disease has never been identified in Ontario, but is now found in 26 U.S. states and the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec. It has also been found in South Korea, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

CWD is caused by infectious abnormal proteins called prions, which accumulate in the brain and other tissues and lead to death. It is in the same family of diseases as scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as "mad cow disease") and Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a disease that can kill humans.

Research shows CWD is highly contagious and can be spread through the saliva, urine, feces and the blood of infected animals. There is also evidence the disease may remain infectious in the environment, such as in soil, for many years.

The full list of CWD freezer depots in northwestern Ontario can be found at