The firearm deer season officially opened Nov. 16, though it’s important to keep in mind the prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the area.
Hunter Baillie, the northwest district manager for the management section of the wildlife division under Nebraska Game and Parks, said the Pine Ridge unit had the most detection rating for 2018, with 68 of 228 mule deer testing positive for CWD. Game and Parks will again be testing in the Pine Ridge and Plains areas this year, Baillie said, with the hope to get a 230 bucks, 2.5 years or older, tested. He noted the testing is voluntary, but does require removal of the retropharyngeal lymph nodes of the animal.
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Check stations for the Pine Ridge area are in Harrison, Crawford, Chadron and Rushville.
An animal infected with CWD can be fairly difficult to spot, Baillie said, and a lot of the time an animal can appear to be healthy when it’s actually infected. The Centers for Disease Control do recommend not eating meat from an infected animal, though the disease has never been shown to be transferrable to humans.
Looking at past deer seasons, Baillie said the harvest numbers last year for the entire northwest district were 6,607. Though this reflects a loss of one percent compared to 2017’s numbers, but still three percent higher than the five-year average.