FORKS (Sept. 15, 2004)- The Quileute Tribe is collecting brain stem samples from deer and elk harvested by hunters to check for chronic wasting disease in cooperation with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Eyes in the Woods.
Chronic wasting disease affects the neurological system of deer and elk and has required the elimination of entire herds in other states. Quileute tribal technical staff, together with Eyes in the Woods volunteers, are asking hunters for permission to remove a sample of deer and elk brain stem tissue along with gathering other harvest information. “This is strictly voluntary,” said Frank Geyer, Timber/Fish/Wildlife biologist for the Quileute Tribe. “But information about harvest and the samples we collect really help with the management of the resource in this area.”
Washington treaty tribes and WDFW are co-managers of the fisheries and wildlife resources. Tribal technicians were trained to remove the brain stem by WDFW veterinarians and Eyes in the Woods volunteers. Brain stem samples are preserved and WDFW collects them for analysis.
The number of samples collected will dramatically increase with the assistance of Quileute technical staff. “We are working with Eyes In The Woods volunteers to staff as many different hunter exit roads as possible to get the largest sample size we can,” said Geyer.
Surveying for disease is part of the tribe’s comprehensive game management plan. The tribe has an ongoing study of elk herds in the Forks area to track productivity, food availability and overall herd health.
“Harvest pressure in this area is heavy, so all the information we collect is critical,” said Geyer. The Quileute sampling effort is funded by a grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and supported by WDFW. “While the disease has not been detected anywhere within the state, there is a danger in assuming that it does not exist,” said Geyer. “There has been little sampling done on the western Olympic Peninsula. This effort will help fill that data gap.”
For more information contact: Frank Geyer, Timber/Fish/Wildlife biologist, Quileute Tribe, (360) 374-2027; Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, (360) 902-2511; Debbie Preston, coastal information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501