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CWD found again in southwestern ND hunting unit

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A mule deer shot by a hunter in western Grant County in southwestern North Dakota has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

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The initial testing done at Michigan State University is being verified by a national lab in Ames, Iowa, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said Monday.

It is the fourth deer killed in the 3F2 hunting unit to test positive for the disease in the past five years, and the first buck. Infected does were killed in 2009, 2010 and 2011, all within a few miles of one another.

CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal. Scientists have found no evidence that the disease can be transmitted naturally to people or livestock.

Game and Fish has been monitoring for the disease since 2002, testing animals that are found dead or sick and testing tens of thousands of deer heads supplied voluntarily by hunters.

North Dakota until recent years had been somewhat of an island when it came to CWD. The disease had been found in deer and elk populations in many other states and in Canada, but had not been found in North Dakota until 2009. Wildlife officials speculated that year that the infected deer might have come from South Dakota, where CWD already was present. The 3F2 hunting unit borders South Dakota.

Game and Fish earlier implemented hunter restrictions in 3F2 to try to prevent the spread of CWD to deer in other areas of the state. Hunters can't transport a carcass containing the head and spinal column outside of the unit unless it is taken directly to a meat processor. If a hunter processes the deer in the field and wants to leave the head behind, it must be legally tagged and its location documented.

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