Davis County hunting preserve, source of Iowa's first positive CWD test, to be depopulated

Orlan Love
Published: September 10 2012 | 4:46 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:13 am in

A Davis County hunting preserve that registered the state’s first positive test for chronic wasting disease will be depopulated under an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources.

The agreement, which permits a delay of several months before the depopulation, allows the owners of Pine Ridge Hunting Lodge, Tom and Rhonda Brakke, to honor commitments for hunts previously scheduled between Sept. 8 and Dec. 25, said Dale Garner, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Bureau.

Any deer killed during those hunts will be tested for CWD and any remaining after those hunts will be killed and tested for the fatal brain disease, Garner said.

Garner said the 330-acre enclosed facility is home to about 150 whitetail deer and nine elk.

Following that first positive CWD test in July, the DNR and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship have since confirmed six more positive tests – all but two related to the Davis County hunting preserve.

A deer breeding facility in Cerro Gordo County, under the ownership of Pine Ridge Hunting Lodge, has recorded a positive test, as have three deer raised at that facility and shipped to a combination shooting and breeding facility in Pottawattamie County, according to State Veterinarian David Schmitt.

The other two positive tests at the Pottawattamie facility involved a deer acquired from another Iowa breeder and a deer that was a natural addition to the herd, Schmitt said.

While the DNR regulates deer and elk at pay-to-shoot facilities, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has jurisdiction over deer and elk at breeding facilities.

Schmitt said his agency had no immediate plans to depopulate the breeding facilities.

“We have quarantined them to prevent any additional deer movement, and we are tracing and testing deer that have already been moved,” he said.

Randy Taylor, chairman of the legislative committee of the Iowa Bowhunters Association, said the organization is concerned that commercial deer operations are threatening the health of Iowa’s wild deer. “We will recommend that the Legislature pass stricter rules governing the operation of deer breeding and shooting facilities,” Taylor said.

Garner said only antlers attached to a clean skull plate and the animal’s cape will be allowed to leave the Davis County shooting preserve and only after samples for CWD and DNA have been collected.

Pine Ridge is required to provide 12-hour notice to the DNR once any animal has been harvested so that tissue samples can be collected.

Under the agreement, Pine Ridge will provide a refrigerated truck to store deer carcasses until results of CWD tests have been confirmed, and it will pay for all CWD testing and disposal of animals taken during the planned hunts at its facility.

The DNR and Pine Ridge will split the costs of installing a 3-D electric fence inside the existing perimeter boundary fence of the facility.

Garner said the DNR will increase testing of wild deer in the area by working with hunters and landowners to collect samples from hunter harvested deer beginning this fall.

Iowa has tested 42,557 wild deer and over 4,000 captive deer and elk as part of the surveillance program since 2002 when CWD was found in Wisconsin.

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