Whitetail deer hunting season in Manitoba began October 23rd for muzzleloader in most areas and the general rifle season for whitetails begins on November 13th, and there are a few things our hunters need to remember when it comes to CWD and mandatory tissue testing.

CWD is a progressive neurological disease that occurs in members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose and caribou/reindeer). Over time, CWD causes degeneration of the brain. The disease is similar to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also know as Mad Cow Disease. Unlike other wildlife diseases, the infectious agent in CWD is not caused by a virus, bacterium or parasite. It is caused by a type of protein called a prion. CWD is always fatal in the deer family (cervids) and there is no vaccine to prevent it. There is also no cure. CWD has the potential to severely reduce or even wipe out local populations of cervids.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an ongoing concern for Manitobans, and now during the Fall hunting season, harvesters need to remember to do their due diligence in preventing the spread of CWD, as well as protect themselves and their families from a potentially dangerous disease that still has its unknowns when it comes to human consumption.

According to the MB Government website, 'CWD is not known as a human health risk but Health Canada has recommended that meat from a CWD-infected animal not be consumed. In areas where CWD is a concern, it is mandatory for licensed hunters to have harvested animals tested, practice safe carcass-handling protocols and avoid consumption of any animal that has tested positive for CWD. Samples results from harvested animals will be posted, once available, at www.gov.mb.ca/nrnd/fish-wildlife/wildlife/cwd-results/cwd-results.html.'

On November 1, 2021, Manitoba announced the first CWD-positive case found in the province, located on the west side of the province near Lake of the Prairies. A mule deer buck in this area was observed to be unhealthy and acting unnaturally. It was euthanized by staff, tested, and confirmed to be infected with CWD. Additional findings of CWD have been confirmed to date as a result of department management actions.

Manitoba Wildlife Federation's Program and Events Coordinator, Chris Benson, says CWD is something, as hunters, we all need to be aware of. 

"Some of the precautions we advise hunters to follow when harvesting deer, but really any kind of wild game, is the use of rubber or latex gloves and ensuring that we're working in a clean area, and washing our knives and all the tools that we're using to clean game, whether that be big game, or ducks and geese and other wild birds, to ensure the control of the spread of any kind of diseases," shares Benson.

"As Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in Manitoba there have been efforts to eradicate it as well as to reach out to hunters to ensure that anyone who does harvest a big game animal, including mule deer or a white-tail deer, that the animal is tested for CWD to ensure that the meat is safe to eat, for human consumption," he adds.

There are drop-off locations across the province where hunters can bring tissue samples.  "This has really benefited a lot of hunters from previous years, so this has been a positive change that we've seen in the province."

Those deer that have been found with CWD have been coming in from our western border with Saskatchewan, says Benson. "But the control area, if you look in the Manitoba Hunting Guide, is the entirety of our southern border with the US (N Dakota) and with most of our western border with Saskatchewan, and there is a buffer zone there that goes into Manitoba quite a distance in the different game hunting zones. So, I would recommend all hunters to reference the Manitoba Hunting Guide online, or in print where you can purchase your hunting licenses."  

Check the 2023 Manitoba Hunting Guide, (available online or at many provincial government locations or hunting retailers) for a specific region’s opening dates, as well as details on second or even third deer tags. These opportunities are tied to certain game hunting areas, so check closely, adds Benson.

Province of Manitoba | News Releases | Manitoba Government Adopts New Regulations to Improve Testing for Chronic Wasting Disease

For all wild game hunting, including mule deer hunting dates, visit the Manitoba Hunting Guide 2023.

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