CWD Outreach and Surveillance in BC
British Columbia B.C. is in the fortunate position of being Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) free. However, the disease is spreading in Alberta and elsewhere and is currently in the news with research findings raising new concerns about human health. Surveillance in wild cervids and proactive outreach about CWD risk continues to be the priority for B.C.
B.C. regions adjacent to the Alberta border (East Kootenay and Peace) are considered at the highest risk for CWD introduction. Outreach and surveillance efforts have been primarily focused on these regions since 2002.
Surveillance in the Kootenay region is supported by regional contacts and local businesses facilitating the collection of adequate numbers of hunter harvested samples. Sample submissions in the Peace region have been declining despite equally keen and supportive regional contacts.
This past week Cait Nelson, B.C.’s Wildlife Health Biologist was invited to the Peace Region in the Northeast part of the province to speak to the on CWD. This was a wonderful opportunity for local outreach, local input on improving delivery of the CWD program as well as allowing time for contact with and training of regional wildlife staff.
Cait gave two presentations on CWD to clubs and demonstrated how samples are collected. She also revisited local contacts such as sporting goods/outdoor stores to discuss ideas on how to improve and promote the program. The reception from the community was very positive however a number of challenges were outlined, including a lack of drop off locations, a difficulty in transporting heads after harvest and a general lack of awareness of the program.
She spent time with regional wildlife staff and provided training on the collection of tissues for CWD diagnostics. Regional wildlife biologists were keen and more than capable with these techniques. We are hoping that their participation will expand B.C.’s capacity for CWD sampling.
The trip provided the Wildlife Health Program with great feedback and renewed contacts and enthusiasm in the Peace. It outlined the importance of face to face meetings and time spent discussing such an important issue. We are hopeful that the shared discussions and ideas will improve delivery of CWD Surveillance in B.C. overall but especially in the Northeast.
Contributed by Cait Nelson, Assistant Regional Director CWHC-BC