Ahead of the 2023 hunting season, the Manitoba government has introduced new amendments to the Wildlife Protection Regulation to simplify data collection and provide more options for hunters to engage in the mandatory sample requirements for chronic wasting disease (CWD), Natural Resources and Northern Development Minister Greg Nesbitt announced today.

“Our government has shown our commitment to taking action to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease,” said Nesbitt. “Budget 2023 committed $880,000 to increase the capacity of Manitoba’s mandatory sample program and these new amendments will further improve sampling efforts for hunters. Early detection and improving our testing capacity is key to developing effective strategies to protect wildlife populations today and into the future.”

CWD is an incurable, fatal disease that affects members of the deer family (cervids) including mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou. The discovery of the first positive cases of CWD late in 2021 prompted the Manitoba government, through its Wildlife Health Program, to expand its surveillance and prevention program in 2022. The 2022-23 hunting season saw a substantial increase in biological sample submissions – up to 6,000, compared to an average of 1,000 before CWD was discovered in Manitoba. As a result, sample processing times were lengthy.

The Manitoba government is implementing process improvements in 2023 in an effort to reduce turnaround times for test results, the minister noted. Amendments now give hunters the option to extract and submit the testable tissue samples themselves rather than submitting the animal’s entire head. In addition, mandatory sample submission periods have been extended from two days to seven days to allow hunters additional time to extract samples, the minister added.

“By encouraging hunters to extract and submit testable samples, resources can be redirected to quicker collection and processing to reduce turnaround time for test results during peak hunting season,” said Nesbitt.

As part of these changes, the Manitoba government is engaging with key stakeholders and hunters on the implementation of these new legislative requirements. The Department of Natural Resources and Northern Development anticipates the number of cases will rise as further testing is completed, the minister noted.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news to hunters and Manitoba Wildlife Federation members,” said Chris Heald, senior policy adviser, Manitoba Wildlife Federation. “All Manitobans must work together to stop the spread of CWD.”

“We applaud the changes being made because we know hunters in our province are committed to doing what is required to ensure the sustainability of our wildlife populations,” said Mat Hobson, president, Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association. “By making it easier to meet requirements, the Manitoba government is ensuring proper monitoring is done to control the spread of CWD within our borders.”

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.

The amendments also remove requirements for bovine tuberculosis testing in the Riding Mountain National Park area as Manitoba has been considered bovine tuberculosis-free for the last number of years.

Hunters with questions or concerns about an animal that has been harvested can email cwd@gov.mb.ca or call 1-204-638-4570.

For more information, visit www.manitoba.ca/cwd.