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SALT LAKE CITY — With Utah's hunting season reaching full swing, state wildlife officials are once again asking hunters to bring their harvested deer to one of the many stations set up to test deer for chronic wasting disease.
Chronic wasting disease, which is sometimes referred to as "zombie deer disease," is a transmissible disease that impacts the nervous systems of deer, elk and moose. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources considers it "relatively rare" but has circulated around Utah animals since at least 2002.
The disease is caused by a protein particle that attaches to the brain and spinal cord of a creature, causing brain lesions and other issues before the creature eventually dies. This particle, called a prion, is also similar to mad cow disease in cows, according to the division.
Data show there were a little more than a dozen cases of the disease found in deer during the 2020 fiscal year. The disease, to this point in the year, has been found in six hunting units across the state, mostly in eastern and central Utah.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there aren't any documented cases of chronic wasting disease transferring to humans but still advises against eating meat contaminated by a prion-caused disease like chronic wasting disease.
It's also why the division sets up stations where hunters can bring biologists harvested deer for chronic wasting disease testing. These stations rotate to allow for Utah biologists to sample deer in different locations to see if it has spread anywhere new, according to division officials.
"We take the presence of chronic wasting disease in Utah seriously and will continue to do extensive monitoring to stay on top of the disease and its prevalence in the state," said Ginger Stout, Utah's wildlife veterinarian, in a statement Wednesday.
Hunters in sampling areas can take their harvested deer to a station, where employees will ask them questions about where the harvested deer was located and biologists remove a deer's lymph nodes for testing. Those who harvest a deer should make sure there are about 6 inches of the animal's neck and windpipe left below the jaw so biologists can remove the lymph nodes.
This year's sampling stations are located at the following locations:
- DWR's Cedar City office (1470 N. Airport Road): Tests are by appointment only. Call 435-865-6100 to schedule an appointment.
- DWR's Ogden office (515 E. 5300 South): From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 to Oct. 29 and on Nov. 1. Tests are by appointment only. Call 801-476-2740 to make an appointment outside those dates and times.
- DWR's Price office (319 N. Carbonville Road): From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 to Oct. 29. Tests are by appointment only. Call 435-613-3700 to schedule an appointment.
- DWR's Salt Lake City office (1594 W. North Temple): From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 to Oct. 29. Tests are by appointment only. Call 385-368-1672 to make an appointment outside those dates.
- DWR's Vernal office (318 N. Vernal Ave.): From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 to Oct. 29 and on Nov. 1. Tests are by appointment only. Call 435-781-9453 to schedule an appointment.
- Fairview area (The junction of state Route 31, state Route 264 and North Skyline Drive): From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 through 25.
- Fairview area (Parking lot south of the junction of state Route 31 and South Skyline Drive): From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 through 25.
- Manila area (State Route 43 between mile markers 3 and 4): From about 9 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 through Oct. 25.
- Mountain Green Rest Area (on westbound I-84): From about 10 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
- Sand Ledges Recreation Area (along state Route 24 between Fishlake and Richfield): From about 10 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
- Santaquin (east side of I-15 Exit 242): From about 9 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 through Oct. 25.
- Snowville (at the interchange of I-84 and state Route 30): From about 10 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
- Spanish Fork Canyon (near the Covered Bridge community): From about 9 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 through Oct. 25.
- Strawberry Reservoir area (The junction of U.S. Highway 40 and the Co-op Creek Road): From about 9 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 through Oct. 25.
- Tooele: Text 385-208-6211 to schedule an appointment for a sample collection.
- Vernal area (U.S. Highway 191 at the Steinaker Reservoir rest stop): From about 9 a.m. to dusk on Oct. 23 through Oct. 25.
DWR officials say hunters away from those target sampling units can still have deer or elk tested for chronic wasting disease if they choose. They can bring the head of the animal to either the Logan or Spanish Fork Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab locations. Unlike the sampling unit locations, it comes with a $25 testing fee.