Chronic Wasting Disease Silvercore Podcast BC
episode 123 | Feb 13, 2024
Hunting & Fishing
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Silvercore Podcast Ep. 123: CWD Confirmed - What Hunters Need to Know

Join us on Silvercore Podcast Episode 123 as we dive into the critical issue of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) with wildlife health expert Cait Nelson. Discover the latest findings on CWD's arrival in British Columbia, understand its impact on deer, elk, and moose populations, and learn essential safety tips for hunters. Cait shares her insights on prevention, surveillance, and how we can all contribute to the fight against this invisible enemy. Whether you're a seasoned hunter, wildlife enthusiast, or concerned citizen, this episode offers valuable knowledge on safeguarding our wildlife heritage. Tune in to stay informed and proactive in the battle against CWD.
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Silvercore Podcast 123 Cait Nelson CWD

[00:00:00] Travis Bader: I'm Travis Bader, and this is the Silvercore podcast. Silvercore has been providing its members with the skills and knowledge necessary to be confident and proficient in the outdoors for over 20 years. And we make it easier for people to deepen their connection to the natural world. If you enjoy the positive and educational content.

[00:00:30] Travis Bader: We provide, please let others know by sharing, commenting, and following so that you can join in on everything that Silvercore stands for. If you'd like to learn more about becoming a member of the Silvercore club and community, visit our website at silvercore. ca.

[00:00:52] Travis Bader: Today's guest is a wildlife health biologist who for the last 17 years has been working with the BC provincial government wildlife health program. She's involved with priority disease surveillance programs such as bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, which is the subject of today's talk.

[00:01:09] Travis Bader: Welcome to the Silvercore podcast, Kate Nelson. 

[00:01:12] Cait Nelson: Hi, Travis. Thanks for having 

[00:01:14] Travis Bader: me. You know, we've talked a lot in the past, back and forth. I'm really happy to have you on the podcast here. It's a unfortunate, the circumstances, which is precipitating the chat that we're seeing CWD chronic wasting disease in British Columbia.

[00:01:30] Travis Bader: Um, you know, it was what, depending on when this podcast releases, it's going to be a little bit of a span is about a week ago or so that we started seeing all of the. Announcements coming through back country hunters and anglers and the BC Wildlife Federation and in the newspapers that chronic wasting disease has now been spotted and confirmed in British Columbia.

[00:01:51] Cait Nelson: Yeah, that's right. We, uh, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which is the, the ref, um, the reference laboratory confirmed, um, the first two cases. Uh, and they came, um, from deer samples from our Kootenai region. So that was the first time CWU was detected in, in BC. So yeah, we're about a week in now. 

[00:02:13] Travis Bader: I couldn't believe the amount of, uh, questions that I've been getting.

[00:02:18] Travis Bader: We put up a poll on social media saying that I'm going to be having a talk. And do you have questions? Holy crow. The number of people that have been inundating us with a lot of club members and people through social media and, uh, friends are saying like, can we find out this? Can we find out that? And a lot of them are the same.

[00:02:36] Travis Bader: I can only imagine. What's it like in your office right now? Are you getting inundated? 

[00:02:40] Cait Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. Short answer is yes. Um, it's, it's been very busy. Uh, but it's also really great to see, um, the interest and tend to see all of these groups and individuals and, you know, communities that are reaching out to say, how can we help, how can we support, and, um, so that's been.

[00:03:06] Cait Nelson: really a wonderful thing to be going through, you know, if it has been super intense and of course it's, it's, it's, um, Really, uh, too bad, you know, nobody wanted this event to happen, but we have been anticipating it and preparing for it. And so it, um, you know, it's, it's, it's a sad day for sure that we've now detected this disease in BC, but, um, I'm sort of energized, I guess, by, By the incredible community and support, um, that we're receiving already.

[00:03:42] Cait Nelson: Um, you know, just with people reaching out and lots of questions. And I hope that, you know, really appreciate the invitation today, um, to have a chat with you because, uh, you know, this is a platform where we can reach a lot of people and hope to address some of those questions because it's hard for, for us to.

[00:04:01] Cait Nelson: You know, actually connect with all of those people, you know, directly. Um, and we know there's a lot of questions out there. So, so hopefully by doing this, we can, we can help share the information more effectively. Yeah, and 

[00:04:13] Travis Bader: we were talking off air as well here about, uh, the release of this episode. So I've got some planned episodes that are looking at releasing and I'm, uh, looking at bumping that timeline up based on the fact that there's so much new information that's coming to light.

[00:04:29] Travis Bader: So what we talk about here is going to be fairly timely from when we're talking about it, but. People who are interested in this and they want to learn more. They should be checking out what the, uh, I'm sure the provincial government's got a website that they can re referring to, to see all the updates.

[00:04:45] Travis Bader: Yeah, 

[00:04:45] Cait Nelson: no, absolutely. Yeah. We're really in the, the early stages of this. Um, again, we had, you know, put a lot of work into preparing for this. Um, running through scenarios, what kind of resources we're going to need and what kind of expertise we're going to need. Um, so thankfully we had a lot of that in place so that we could hit the ground running, but this really is, um, you know, uh, information gathering.

[00:05:11] Cait Nelson: We want to make sure that we understand what's going on on the landscape right now. And we're pulling those, those key facts together so that we can. You know, make informed decisions and science based decisions moving forward, but yeah, we're we're really in in the thick of it right now. And as more information is coming in daily, and it will, it will provide a clearer picture of what's, um, what's unfolding, you know, on the landscape and so, yeah, yeah, it was sort of, um, this is sort of a snapshot, but every day there's new information coming in and that's gonna, um, Give us a more complete picture of the scope and scale of this.

[00:05:51] Cait Nelson: Right. 

[00:05:53] Travis Bader: So what I'll do just to keep this a bit more evergreen in front of people's minds is we can communicate afterwards as things progress. If there's big announcements that come out, I'll throw it up in the show notes. So I'll put it into the, on the website and the YouTube and in the description. So people at least have links where they can.

[00:06:10] Travis Bader: Click and check out what the new information on this is. Yeah. So 

[00:06:14] Cait Nelson: we do have a, we do have a BCCWD website and that's going to be a good resource, um, for people to check out or we're going to be posting, um, new information and, and some communication stuff, uh, all of our test results as they come in, we'll go up on our website.

[00:06:30] Cait Nelson: So, so yeah, we'll make sure everybody has that link. 

[00:06:34] Travis Bader: Perfect. Um, well, let's start at the beginning. What is, what do we know? What do we know about chronic wasting disease? Where did it start? What does it do? Um, how does it spread? 

[00:06:46] Cait Nelson: Okay. So, so chronic wasting disease is a infectious disease that affects species in the deer family, um, or cervids.

[00:06:54] Cait Nelson: And so that includes deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Um, it's fatal in all cases. When an animal becomes infected, they will die from the disease. And we still don't have any vaccines available. So this is a fatal disease. Um, it's caused by an abnormal misshapen protein called a prion. And so, uh, you know, normal proteins in our bodies, they, they all have, you know, different functions and they're, um, designed to sort of, Complete that function and they'll, they'll break down into their component parts and kind of get recycled in the body.

[00:07:33] Cait Nelson: But these, these disease causing prions, um, for whatever reason, they don't break down, they accumulate in the tissue and they can be present in all tissues of the animal, but they really tend to concentrate and, and, um, increasingly concentrate in the central nervous system in the brain. And so what ends up happening is.

[00:07:55] Cait Nelson: a neurological disease. And so there's, there's damage to the brain tissue that, um, that ultimately leads to the demise of that animal. And so, um, one of the tricky, well, there's several tricky things about this disease, but one of them is that, um, most animals that are. that test positive for the disease, as we've seen in other places.

[00:08:20] Cait Nelson: Um, they don't actually show, uh, outward symptoms. Those symptoms aren't really always obvious. So a lot of animals that test positive are healthy looking, hunter harvested animals. So I talk to hunters often that, you know, they'll say they're so surprised that their animals tested positive. This is like B.

[00:08:38] Cait Nelson: C. hunters that have harvested animals in Alberta or, you know, elsewhere where they've had this disease for a while. Um, or hunters in B. C. who I talk to and they say, No, I didn't submit my My head for testing this year because the animal I harvested was really healthy, looked really good. And so that's tricky because there's no way to, um, often there's no way to tell just visually if an animal is infected with this disease.

[00:09:04] Cait Nelson: And so it's, um, that's why testing animals is so important. Um, but it also makes managing the disease on the landscape a challenge because there's no, um, you don't see sick animals. It's very rare to see sick animals on the landscape, even in places like Alberta, where there's a really high proportion of the animals are infected.

[00:09:26] Cait Nelson: Now, you just don't really see sick animals on the landscape, so there's no signal for us that something's wrong. Um, so anyway, that's a challenging aspect. Another challenging aspect of this disease is, um, these disease causing Uh, prions or proteins, um, in an infected animal, they'll actually shed the, the animal will shed these, these prions through their saliva or other bodily fluids into the environment.

[00:09:55] Cait Nelson: They can also be shed. Uh, through carcasses that are decomposing in the environment. And so that environmental contamination aspect of this disease makes it super challenging to, um, to, to control because not only do we have direct transmission between animals through nose to nose contact, um, But there's contamination of the environment and, and, um, these animals that are shedding again, they, they're infected with the disease, but they don't really often show that those outward symptoms.

[00:10:28] Cait Nelson: So, so they can still be shedding the disease, even though they don't appear to be sick. And so once these, these prions get into the environment, Um, they'll remain there active and infectious and could potentially expose other animals indirectly through, you know, an animal, um, you know, consuming some vegetation or, you know, these prions can be in the soil on plants and in water and things like that.

[00:10:55] Cait Nelson: And, um, they are very, these prions are very, um, indestructible really, um, they're resistant to heat, like burning and cooking. Doesn't, um, doesn't sort of deactivate the pre, the protein, um, disinfectants, like, you know, other cleaning methods won't, um, won't, you know, kind of neutralize them in the environment.

[00:11:21] Cait Nelson: And so it's, there's not really any way to clean up those environments once they've been contaminated. And so then that becomes a site where other animals can pick it up from. Yeah. So 

[00:11:32] Travis Bader: this is kind of like, if I'm not mistaken, like I remember 96, 97 and everyone was mad cow disease is a big thing. And that's, I'm probably gonna pronounce this wrong, but bovine 

[00:11:44] Cait Nelson: spongiform encephalopathy.

[00:11:45] Cait Nelson: Yeah. Is that? Yeah. Yeah. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Yeah. 

[00:11:48] Travis Bader: Encephalopathy. I knew I'd almost get it. Oh, you were very close. Yeah. And I, I remember I, uh, I was 19 years old. I flew over to the UK and this was all on the mind. Everyone's talking about this mad cow disease. And I'm like, I'm not going to eat any meat.

[00:12:02] Travis Bader: And the first meal that I had was at a friend's grandmother's house where I was staying was a. Roast beef dinner. I'm like, well, I 

[00:12:09] Cait Nelson: can't, I can't, I can't say no to eat this. Someone's grandma's made you that meal. Yeah. Totally. 

[00:12:14] Travis Bader: And you know that she put a lot of effort and it cost a bit and all the rest.

[00:12:19] Travis Bader: And so I ate it gladly. And I thought, I guess I'm not giving blood for the next few years because that's what the rules were around that. This, that, that'd be a prion sort of, uh, infection within bovine. Is it pretty similar? To what we're seeing here in the service. Yeah. 

[00:12:35] Cait Nelson: Yeah. And so, so BSC or mad cow disease is another another type of prion disease.

[00:12:41] Cait Nelson: Um, they're part of this family of diseases called, um, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. So. They're, you know, transmissible between animals. The spongiform actually, uh, describes what the, the brain tissue looks like because when the prions accumulate in the brain, um, it causes cell death and you actually get holes in the brain.

[00:13:04] Cait Nelson: And so that's where the spongiform, like it actually has a sponge like appearance. And then encephalopathy just means it. you know, a disease of the brain. And so, um, this group of diseases, prion diseases, include mad cow disease. There's also a prion disease in sheep and goats called scrapie. People might have heard of that.

[00:13:23] Cait Nelson: Um, there are some human forms. Krutzfeldt Jakob disease is a prion disease that, uh, occurs in humans. And, and there's a number of other ones. Um, so they're all caused by these abnormal proteins called prions, part of this group of, of diseases, TSCs. But, um, but different, uh, prion diseases are, are quite, um, they're quite different from each other.

[00:13:47] Cait Nelson: And so, um, for, you know, mad cow disease, for example, is very different. Like you actually have to consume the meat of the cattle to become infected. Those, those animals don't. don't shed the prion into the environment. Um, so they all have differences. They, they tend to have these very, um, strong, what we call species barriers.

[00:14:09] Cait Nelson: So they don't cross between species groups very readily. And so that's, you know, that's how we know that with chronic wasting disease, um, In a natural environment, we don't believe it will transfer to other, to other species like cattle or, you know, other livestock or domestic animals. There's no evidence of that happening, so they're, they're, you know, they're unique in that way to that, um, species group.

[00:14:34] Cait Nelson: Um, coming back to the human health concern touched on with BSE. Um, there's no direct evidence that chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to humans. As far as we know, there hasn't been a, a documented case of CWD in, in a human, but there's still a lot we don't know about these prion diseases. And so.

[00:14:57] Cait Nelson: I mean, we refer to the public health folks for recommendations on this and, you know, coming from the World Health Organization and all the way down to, you know, Health Canada and our local public health folks. Um, their position is that we can't, the risk of transmission to people might be low, but we can't rule it out completely.

[00:15:16] Cait Nelson: So they recommend a precautionary approach and advise that any animal CWD should not be eaten. And so, you know, there, there definitely are some human health concerns. Um, that's the information we have so far is, is to, you know, be cautious about this because we just don't know for sure. 

[00:15:39] Travis Bader: So that would be called zoonotic if it transmits from a, an animal to a human, right?

[00:15:44] Travis Bader: Like mad cow was able to make that jump from an animal to a human. It's a zoonotic transmission. Um, have you seen that research in the university, Calgary, a couple of really bright cookies started putting human, um, um, I don't know, human, something within mice, human proteins, even something in mice. And they're saying, hold on a second, we're seeing in this lab base, not an actual from animal to human, but it's affecting these human, um, proteins and you're going to correct me if I'm wrong, but it's, it's, um, It's not presenting in the way that it would in the cervid, it's presenting very differently.

[00:16:26] Travis Bader: And a couple of years later, have you, have you been 

[00:16:28] Cait Nelson: following that? Uh, you know, a little bit, I'm not super familiar with it, but I do, you know, I, I am familiar with some of those studies that have looked at, you know, pushing that species barrier in a research setting, whether it be with, um, you know, humanized mice or cervidized mice, they can put like, you know, that.

[00:16:48] Cait Nelson: cervid kind of component in a, in a research animal, like a rodent. Um, there's also been some studies looking at, um, transmission of prion disease to non human primates. And that's where some of the uncertainty has come from these, you know, we haven't seen it in a natural setting or haven't, you know, documented this in a natural setting, but in some of these research settings, um, the results, the findings of these studies have been sort of inconsistent.

[00:17:19] Cait Nelson: And there, you know, there's a few studies that where there was evidence that, um, you know, primates that consumed CWD infected deer meat actually developed the disease. Um, but you know, other studies, similar studies had different results in the end, so sort of inconsistent. Um, and so all, you know, all just kind of cumulatively leading to some uncertainty around it and, and why, um, public health advises us to just take a precautionary approach until we, we can understand this.

[00:17:52] Cait Nelson: More, more completely. 

[00:17:55] Travis Bader: Right. I know a couple of friends over in Alberta, they went and they harvested their, uh, a white tail deer, butchered it, packed it in the freezer, heads off getting inspected. And then they get a note back sometime later saying, It's got chronic wasting disease. We recommend that you take it to the landfill, dump it all in the landfill.

[00:18:18] Travis Bader: So they're pretty upset because now they're out the money for the hunt. They're out their meat. They're out the tag because their tag doesn't get, uh, reimbursed off of the, uh, the whole thing, from my understanding and, um, Um, and I see that as one of the questions that we're getting a lot of, um, number one was like, what is it?

[00:18:38] Travis Bader: And we've talked a little bit about that and how do we identify it? That was one. And I think you've kind of answered that one in so far as you maybe, maybe if it's really progressed down the way, but a lot of times. You don't. Yeah. 

[00:18:51] Cait Nelson: Especially, especially in hunter harvested animals, hunters are not going to be targeting those sick looking animals, right?

[00:18:59] Cait Nelson: And so, yeah, yeah. Just visually you're right. You're correct. There's, there's no way to tell. Um, and so we, you know, recommend and, and encourage hunters to get animals tested. Um, you know, one to have that peace of mind. For the, you know, for them and, and their family that's going to be consuming the meat, but for, for our perspective, that information from that animal and understanding, um, you know, providing that information to feed into our surveillance program so that we have a, a, a better understanding of health of populations in BC.

[00:19:33] Cait Nelson: Um, every, every negative. Test that comes back is super valuable, especially, you know, right now in this, in this scenario that we are in, um, we've had two positive cases, but we are looking at hundreds of negative cases, and that is just as valuable to look at on the landscape where we've tested all these animals in this area, and, you know, we have good confidence The disease is not there and that's so important to us right now.

[00:20:01] Cait Nelson: It allows us to focus in and, and, you know, target our approaches and our resources where we really need to be looking. So, um, anyway, I'm kind of going off course here, but, uh, but yeah, I've had lots of conversations with BC residents. that have harvested animals in, in Alberta, for example, and late, you know, brought the meat back and found out that those animals are positive.

[00:20:27] Cait Nelson: And, um, what generally happens in BC is they're notified by the Alberta program. And then the Alberta program has notified us so we can follow up, um, around the disposal, right? Cause now we, we know that there's CWD. Um, um, CWD confirmed material in somebody's freezer in BC. And, um, the advice is that they don't eat it, but it's up to them if they want to eat it or not, but we always reach out and say, if you do want to, if you don't want to eat this, please consider transferring it over to us so we can dispose of this safely.

[00:21:00] Cait Nelson: Cause we don't want people just, you know, burning it in their backyard. Cause then that's just going to get into the soil or, or throwing it in the bush or something like that. Um, We actually will request that the hunter turns that meat over to us so we can have it incinerated at our agriculture lab because incineration is, as far as we know, the only effective way to denature these, um, these.

[00:21:24] Cait Nelson: And so then we know it's disposed of safely and there's no risk of it coming into the, um, our environment and BC. But, um, but those are hard conversations, you know, with, with all of the struggles right now with, you know, just access to food and, and the cost of food and everything, um, to, to have to make those decisions around wasting meat like that.

[00:21:47] Cait Nelson: It's, it's really, it's, it's heartbreaking. And, um, Um, you know, more and more hunters in other places like Alberta and Saskatchewan. I mean, they've been dealing with this for a while. Um, but you know, we've only just really had a taste of it. We've been really lucky in BC that we haven't had those kinds of impacts yet.

[00:22:05] Cait Nelson: So, you know, why we've been trying to stay ahead of this and be proactive and try and catch us as quickly as possible so that we don't repeat, um, some of those. Unfortunate situations that have played out in other places where the disease has just taken hold and is in a large number of populations now.

[00:22:27] Travis Bader: Where did we first start seeing CWD and what happened to the 

[00:22:31] Cait Nelson: landscape? Yeah, so we don't know for sure where it originated. And so, um. We, the first documented cases of chronic wasting disease were, uh, out of Colorado, Wyoming in the 1960s. Um, mainly centered around a, like a research or ca a research facility in a cap captive animals.

[00:22:54] Cait Nelson: And, um, at that time in the sixties, they. They didn't know what CWD was. It wasn't, it wasn't a thing yet. Um, but later, several years later, I think it was almost a decade later, they, they just, they were like, okay, this is a prion disease that's occurring in cervids and, and, you know, defined it as chronic wasting disease at that time.

[00:23:13] Cait Nelson: Um, but you know, the, in those first, uh, years or even the first couple of decades, it, um, they really didn't understand the disease and how it was transmitted. How it could affect, you know, um, contaminate the environment. So they didn't really have the tools to manage it or contain it. And so it moved around through, um, captive populations, through the farming industry and through wildlife populations.

[00:23:40] Cait Nelson: It, you know, crossed over the fence in both directions. And it was spread around quite a bit in the States. And then, you know, came into Canada in the 19. Um, 1990s into Saskatchewan through, um, uh, cap game farmed elk. And, uh, so yeah, it moved around a lot before we really, anybody really understood the disease and how it was spread.

[00:24:04] Cait Nelson: And then, you know, um, so some of those earlier hit places, I think have seen some of the most significant impacts because again, just didn't have the tools or the understanding of how to manage this disease. Um, we now have the benefit of several years now, uh, you know, lessons learned, uh, watching these places that are managing CWD and, and what's worked and what hasn't worked.

[00:24:32] Cait Nelson: And uh, we have more tools in the, in the toolbox now for sure, and better understanding of just the disease dynamics and how it's spread. 

[00:24:41] Travis Bader: Well, what, um, When we, so I guess how long do we have an idea of how long those prions are going to be in the environment? Let's say an animal was killed by a wolf and it's down and it's decomposing, or maybe it's transmissible through its saliva or feces or urine or whatever.

[00:25:00] Travis Bader: Is it kind of there indefinitely, or is it got a bit of a shelf life? 

[00:25:04] Cait Nelson: We don't actually know, again, as one of these things that we don't fully understand about the disease. Um, you know, I'm, I'm. Um, relative to other diseases that really hasn't been around very long. So we haven't, um, really seen an endpoint yet, uh, you know, for some of these things, we're still watching and learning and seeing how it, how it impacts populations.

[00:25:26] Cait Nelson: So, so there has been some studies done. I think, um, looking at the prions that cause scrapie, I think is one, one study that found that the prions can exist in the environment for. Over 15 years, but that was just sort of the length of that study. It's probably more. It's probably longer So we don't really know but several years for sure There's been some other work that has showed how these prions interact with the environment and soil different soils and so different soil types will actually bind to prions and we'll, we'll make them more, they sort of keep them at the surface so they're more available to other animals.

[00:26:16] Cait Nelson: Whereas other soil types might, you know, with rain and they wash, they wash through and they're not as, um, sort of available at the surface. So anyway, all, all of these things, there's, there's different, um, different factors, uh, different variables on the landscape that will impact this. But as you know, as far as we know, the prions will remain active, we could say, or infectious and with the potential to expose other animals for several years, even if in the absence of those sick animals that originally deposited them there.

[00:26:52] Travis Bader: Well, that's an interesting question about the environment. Are there certain environments that just become pre on cesspools that the hunter going in there knows that if I'm rolling the dice, I'm the odds aren't in my favor and other ones where if they want to roll those dice, the odds might be in their favor.

[00:27:07] Cait Nelson: Yeah. Again, it's. Um, not something that we fully understand sort of on the landscape, but there's definitely been some evidence of what we call CWD hotspots where, um, animals will visit a site. Um, if there's, if there's like an attractant, um, if there's some sort of a food source and multiple animals are coming to that site and they sort of are congregating together, um, You know, it makes sense that, you know, they're sort of coming back to that site.

[00:27:37] Cait Nelson: They're all eating there. Every, you know, everyone's drooling and urinating on that spot. So those are areas where you tend to see higher rates of that disease transmission and higher rates of environmental contamination. So, so it's just sort of this, um, circular thing that continues driving that, um, disease.

[00:27:57] Cait Nelson: So, uh, yeah, there's definitely some evidence of that, um, you know, how much that's playing a role overall in the, um, in the, on the landscape. We don't fully understand, but, but some of those areas, things like, um, urban deer populations in some other places, like we've seen the situation in Northwest Montana and the Libby area, um, you know, pretty high rates of, of disease in, in that white tail population in the city limits.

[00:28:24] Cait Nelson: And so there's some, some reasons, you know, that that could be, um, just the ecology of urban deer. They're kind of using the same areas. The higher, you know, highly concentrated, not as many, um, pressures from predators or hunters, right? And so you, you can see kind of more disease, um, transmission in, in those types of situations.

[00:28:47] Travis Bader: Are we finding any sort of like genetic outliers or markers within some of these cervids that are just not getting the CWD or maybe genetic outliers who are more predisposition 

[00:29:00] Cait Nelson: to get it? Yeah, great question. I, a short answer is I don't think so. Um, again, that's not my area of expertise, but my understanding is, you know, there's, there's been a fair bit of work looking at caribou and if caribou might have hope, you know, everyone's hopeful.

[00:29:16] Cait Nelson: Because of the conservation concerns around caribou, that they might have some resistance, and there's no evidence of that. Um, and so, uh, I think, I think the, um, The thinking is that these animals don't build any kind of immunity because it's a protein. The body, just like, you know, we all have proteins in our bodies.

[00:29:38] Cait Nelson: Well, you know, the body doesn't recognize it as something foreign or something that's not supposed to be there. Like, you know, a bacteria or a virus, the body will know there's something foreign and you get an immune response. With these proteins, there's no immune response. The body doesn't recognize it as anything that shouldn't be there.

[00:29:57] Cait Nelson: And so animals don't build immunity. Over time. Um, to this. So, uh, there's, there's some work and again, not my area of expertise, but, but there's a bodily body of research is looking at different strains of CWD that are present, um, both in North America, and it's done some work in, in Europe, in the, in the CWD outbreak around Scandinavia, um, that there's different strains of the disease that may impact, you Animals are different species in a different way.

[00:30:28] Cait Nelson: Some, you know, some lead to a faster progression of, of disease and, and things like that. But, um, but in all cases, the animal becomes infected and will die ultimately. Just with some different, um, kind of characteristics along the way. Some of the 

[00:30:46] Travis Bader: questions that I had were going to be around identifying animals that have CWD and characteristics that you see in them.

[00:30:52] Travis Bader: And, but I mean, your initial statement about, you can't really, um, I, I would guess at some point you'd be able to identify if it's, uh, gone far enough down the spectrum. Um, what, what would be some of the observations that somebody would have of that animal? If they say, oh, for sure, that one's got CWD. And, um, are there any like sort of pathological features observed in the affected animals?

[00:31:20] Cait Nelson: Sure. Yeah. And we definitely would, you know, want people looking out for those. Right. Um, again, it's, it, it, from what we've seen in other places, it's pretty rare to see stick animals on the landscape. Um, one likely reason for that is that. animals start to show that vulnerability and, and predators would recognize that, um, you know, before people wouldn't.

[00:31:45] Cait Nelson: So I think that that's, what's happened in some places is that predators are sort of taking out those vulnerable sick animals before we see any evidence of disease. Um, but yeah, things to look for in those later stages. So again, this neurological disease, um, There's the classic, if you, you know, you'll see images or videos online of like severely thin animals that are, um, have poor coordination, trembling, drooling, you know, ears down, um, really lethargic.

[00:32:20] Cait Nelson: You see images like that online and, and that, that is, um, Late stage, right? And, and different like studies have been able to track that and observe that late stage in like a research setting in a captive setting. They see these animals progress to that. So certainly, if we see any animals on the landscape with those types of symptoms, that's something our wildlife health.

[00:32:44] Cait Nelson: Program would, would really like to, um, hear about and, and those are animals that we're going to want to follow up on just in case, you know, so, so those, um, very thin and neurological symptoms. Definitely. Um, even before that happens, though, um, when there's changes to the brain, uh, before you see really obvious symptoms showing there might be some subtle things like, uh, animals just sort of.

[00:33:12] Cait Nelson: to be like, not, uh, not afraid of people approaching or, or, you know, other, you know, dogs approaching just sort of, um, not very alert. Um, not moving out of the way as, as normal behavior would, would show generally. Um, that's another reason why roadkill samples are a super important sample for us because obviously lots of animals get.

[00:33:41] Cait Nelson: Uh, hit on the road. And so that's a really good source of samples, but those animals that, um, are starting to have some of those neurological impacts will be more susceptible to getting hit by a vehicle too. Right. And so they're almost like a, uh, uh, a higher, um, uh, what's the word? Like higher value sample for us because they may be more prone to, um, to being hit by a car if they're, if they're sick.

[00:34:12] Cait Nelson: Um, so yeah, so those are some sort of more subtle, uh, observations if, if people, um, observe something like that, you know, and with all of these things that I'm describing, there's other things out there that could cause these, it's not necessarily chronic wasting disease, but, um, we definitely would like to hear about it so that we can follow up and, and, um, you know, just keep track of what's going on because, uh, there's, you know, the, um, Hunting community and, and trapping community and just locals that are on the land, like you're our ears and eyes out there.

[00:34:45] Cait Nelson: Um, and so if you're observing anything abnormal, um, we'd sure like to hear about it and we can follow up. 

[00:34:53] Travis Bader: So I, okay. I was going to ask a different question, but just an easy follow up on that one would be, um, what's Like how, how would somebody, who would they report that to? Yeah. How would they let people know?

[00:35:05] Travis Bader: And the other question that people, and this was going to be further down the line was, should somebody try and take that animal out of the ecosystem, but knowing now that it's going to be in the, in the ground and every, everywhere else. Like there's that whole ethical thing as well. 

[00:35:19] Cait Nelson: Right. Yeah. Well, again, I think those are the type of decisions that, you know, if it's reported to us or reported to our conservation officer service or our local wildlife biologists, um, we can then, you know, sort of, uh, get the.

[00:35:33] Cait Nelson: the facts of the situation and, and determine if, if it's, if maybe we, we can rule out chronic wasting disease if there's something else that appears to be going on and then it's not, um, as higher risk. But, uh, uh, you know, I think, I think, I don't think we can really encourage people to, um, You know, remove these animals, but definitely let's, you know, reach out and we can, we can, uh, get the facts, um, and follow up and then determine if this is something, an animal that we want to go in and collect a sample from, and then we'll know, but yeah, without the samples, without, you know, photographs and videos are really valuable to us.

[00:36:12] Cait Nelson: And those can always be, um, emailed to us, uh, our wildlife health program. Um, You know, again, going to the website, all of our contact information is there, and so we can be reached that way through email or phone, um, and our conservation officers, too, are that with the RAP line, um, their call center can direct calls to us as well, so.

[00:36:35] Cait Nelson: So how was, 

[00:36:35] Travis Bader: how was testing done? Uh, does, do you see false positives or false negatives at times? And, um, are there going to be home testing kits that are provided for hunters so they can 

[00:36:47] Cait Nelson: kind of field test? That's the dream, Travis. That would be great. But, um, but no, we, um, so let's, yeah, I'll explain testing a little bit.

[00:36:56] Cait Nelson: And again, the, you know, how important testing is right now. It's so important. Um, It has been, uh, a real priority for us in the last few years as the risk level, um, increased, uh, because it's super important to catch this disease as early as possible. So all the samples, um, That we've had that we've had turned into our testing program.

[00:37:21] Cait Nelson: Um, they're, they're mainly coming from hunters, which is amazing. And it really just highlights the important partnership there. Um, we need to test a lot of animals to have accurate information about what's going on on the landscape. And so, uh, Our approach has been to let's try and access these animals that are already being removed from the landscape.

[00:37:43] Cait Nelson: So through hunter harvested animals and roadkill, uh, but still about, you know, 80 percent of our samples come from hunter harvested animals. So without hunters, we wouldn't have this program, you know, we wouldn't have been able to detect these cases. And hopefully we've We, because we've really ramped up, um, testing in the, in the Kootenay region in the last few years, um, our goal is to catch it as early as possible, right?

[00:38:07] Cait Nelson: So that we can, um, uh, try and contain it and, and slow the spread. And hopefully that's, that's what we've been able to achieve here. But, um, yeah, those, those samples are really key. Also working a lot with the trapping community, picking up roadkill that they're using for bait and getting samples that way as well.

[00:38:25] Cait Nelson: Um, So once those, uh, samples are submitted to us, um, what, what we need to test for CWD are tissues at the back of the throat and the base of the skull. So we're testing all species in the deer family, deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Um, the majority of. of samples that we receive are from deer, but we're really interested in all those species, because they can all, um, uh, they're all susceptible to the disease.

[00:38:53] Cait Nelson: So on deer, we collect a specific lymph node at the back of the throat and the tonsils. So all we really need, um, you know, at the beginning, you know, earlier, um, earlier years of this program, we always said, you know, submit your head for testing. And that's still great. If hunters want to turn in a head, we don't want the antlers.

[00:39:12] Cait Nelson: You can cut the antlers off the top of the head. We don't need the, the, the brain and the top part of the head at all. Um, we're really just targeting those tissues at the back of the throat. So hunters can turn in a head. Um, they can also turn in the low jaw if they want to do a European mountain and retain that top.

[00:39:30] Cait Nelson: portion of the head. Um, removing the low jaw just by cutting around the arch at the back of that low jawbone, all the tissues we need are protected in there. And so we've had a lot of hunters just turning those in. And that's a great sample for us. Um, we're also providing training for hunters if they're interested in, um, collecting their own tissues off their own animal, and then they can just literally submit the tonsils and lymph nodes in a Ziploc bag to one of our freezer locations.

[00:39:58] Cait Nelson: And, um, and so through our training program, they can also access, um, YouTube videos. There's, there's lots of resources online on, on how to collect your own samples. And so we really encourage that too. That's great. Any way that we can make it easy for hunters to turn in those samples, um, you know, we're trying to support that.

[00:40:17] Cait Nelson: On the elk, moose, and caribou, we do collect slightly different tissues. So we're still, um, collecting the lymph node at the back of the throat, but we need a portion of the brainstem that's right at the base of the skull. And so for that reason, um, we do need the head intact. Um, if you're going to be submitting the head, cause we need that portion of the brainstem and it's, it's really just a section.

[00:40:41] Cait Nelson: Um, it's called the OBEX and it's right at the, at the opening, the back of the skull. If you remove that first vertebrae. It's right at the back of the skull there so hunters can turn in the head of elk and moose that you've harvested YouTube video or reach out. It's pretty easy to, to get that sample. If you want to collect your own samples and then just submit those to one of our freezer locations, and then you can retain the, the skull and the head, the, you know, the, the head intact, if you wanted to do something with that.

[00:41:12] Cait Nelson: Um, what we use, uh, is, uh, as a grapefruit spoon, you know, the small little narrow grapefruit spoons that we all had in our in our cutlery drawers when we were kids. They're really hard to find now. So if anyone ever is in a thrift store and sees these little grapefruit spoons, that would be a great gift to our program, but they work really well, um, for removing that Obex, that brainstem sample from the back of the skull.

[00:41:39] Cait Nelson: Um, and, uh, anyway, so yeah, so that's another option for, for submitting samples. So yeah, we're just, we're trying to create as many. Uh, you know, remove as many barriers as possible if hunters want to keep, um, portions for a trophy or, um, you know, if, if it's a larger head, they don't want to have to carry it out of the bush or something like that.

[00:42:02] Cait Nelson: You just, you know, it doesn't, you know, it's just a knife and a, and a Ziploc bag and you can collect your own, own samples and submit them that way. And then you get the peace of mind on that CWD result. And we get the information to inform what we're doing. 

[00:42:17] Travis Bader: Right. So, and I guess the freezer locations and training videos and all that kind of stuff will be on the CWD website or will there be other links?

[00:42:24] Travis Bader: Yeah. 

[00:42:24] Cait Nelson: Yeah. We've got all of our freezer locations up on the website. Um, we have some descriptions of, uh, you know, sampling, um, instructions on the website as well, and then YouTube too is a, is a good source for, for different videos. 

[00:42:39] Travis Bader: So is there any promising research that's being looked at right now that can give people some hope?

[00:42:45] Travis Bader: I mean, obviously we don't have anything definitive, but are there areas that people are looking at that say, huh, there might be a light at the end of this tunnel right now? 

[00:42:53] Cait Nelson: Yeah. Well, you know, I touched on this a little bit earlier where. We are very fortunate in BC that, um, we've had some time, um, and, and the benefit of learning from these other places that have been managing, uh, CWD in their wildlife populations for, you know, two or three decades now.

[00:43:15] Cait Nelson: And, um, And especially in, in more research or recent situations where, uh, some places in the States, um, have detected the disease in the last 10 years. And, and, You know, it's all hinging on detecting it early, catching the disease as early as possible, which really seems to, um, increase chances of, of successful management.

[00:43:42] Cait Nelson: Um, but we've got some good evidence now out of the States where if you catch it early and you, you can apply some management, you know, there's some examples now where they've been able to keep disease prevalence really low, like below five or in Illinois, like below 3 percent after 20 years. of the disease being in those deer populations.

[00:44:02] Cait Nelson: So, you know, if, if I think that is a success, right? If, if you have the disease on your landscape for, for, you know, after 20 years and you go out, there's only a 3 percent chance that the animal you harvest is going to be infected. Like that, that would be pretty great. Right. And, and so the big recommendations that are coming out of these.

[00:44:23] Cait Nelson: These management agencies and the CWD experts is, um, hunting is our most important tool. Um, for managing CWD and, and it's these, these examples where they've had success has mainly focused through, you know, managing the disease through harvest management. So you understand the disease and again, that's what we're trying to accomplish right now is really pull all the information together, get the, the, you know, the local knowledge and the experts, um, get all that information so we can really understand the, the.

[00:44:57] Cait Nelson: What's happening on on the landscape and what animals are affected and where and when you have that information you can focus your, um, you know, management targeting animals that are most likely to be infected on a much like smaller scale. I was talking about the importance of surveillance right now and all those negative results and how that's allowing us to focus in and really.

[00:45:21] Cait Nelson: you know, target our, our efforts where it's needed rather than trying to apply a strategy over a huge area. If you're not going to have as much success, right? And so, um, yeah, just zeroing in on the, um, animals that are most likely to be infected, harvest management, definitely the most important, um, tool and we've seen success.

[00:45:46] Cait Nelson: We're also really focused in, even in these early days before we have a complete picture, we know that there's a risk of moving carcasses around. We don't want, we don't want to allow the disease to spread around now that we know that it's present in these areas in the Kootenays. We don't want it to spread to other areas and there's a risk with moving carcasses around.

[00:46:07] Cait Nelson: So we're focusing in, you know, we're outside of the hunting season now, focusing in on. Road killed samples and how they're going to be disposed of and where they're being transported and making sure that that's held on really safely. Um, so that, you know, other actions like that, reducing the potential for that spread, um, we'll be talking about how we're going to, um, approach the, this next hunting season and looking at harvest management as most important tool.

[00:46:34] Cait Nelson: Um, you know, some places in, in other, you know, other places have applied some, you know, really. removal of animals, you know, if, if they can't achieve their targets through harvest management, the supplement with some targeted removals, um, following a hunting season sort of thing to, to, you know, focus in on those animals that they believe to be infected or higher risk populations or clusters of cases, those types of things, but much more success.

[00:47:04] Cait Nelson: Zeroing in on those small scales, then some of the management that was applied 20 years ago, uh, or, you know, 20, 30 years ago, like, you know, it lay in the prairies, for example, where, um, there were these large scale culls and they just, um, it was effective in slowing the disease, you know, but it was not, it was very controversial.

[00:47:26] Cait Nelson: It was not supported by the hunting community. Um, and so they were not supported and, and those programs were, um, Were halted and unfortunately what's resulted is continued spread and, um, uh, of the disease and, and, and increasing infection rates, right? So we've learned from that and we've learned about the importance of, of really understanding the situation so you can target your approaches and, um, working, you know, really closely with the hunting communities as, as a partner in this.

[00:48:00] Cait Nelson: Because that, you know, hunting is, is the most important tool. And, and that's, that's the, that's the advice that's coming out of these, these places in the States that have learned, um, you know, we've, we've got a couple of decades now, lessons learned, and we hope to apply that in BC now. 

[00:48:17] Travis Bader: Well, what are some of the biggest challenges or obstacles that researchers and policymakers are encountering when it comes to effectively, uh, Working through this issue and what sort of, uh, ways can the public help overcome this?

[00:48:34] Travis Bader: Yeah. 

[00:48:35] Cait Nelson: Yeah. So, um, I mean, there's lots of little challenges and, and we, again, learning from other places, we've, we've had, um. from these other management agencies saying, you know, this, these are the challenges that we faced. And so, you know, we could be proactive here in BC to, to try and identify those and mitigate those ahead of time.

[00:48:59] Cait Nelson: And so that's what we've been trying to do is listening to our partners in other places and our colleagues and, and, um, and try and set us up. you know, for success in BC. So we've been putting a ton of, um, effort into that planning. And, uh, and fortunately, um, I mean, we've been doing surveillance for CWD and BC since for 20 years since the early two thousands.

[00:49:27] Cait Nelson: And, um, And, and back in, in the, in the early 2000s, my, my, um, boss at that time was Dr. Helen Swansha, the Provincial Wildlife Vet, um, in her wisdom, she set up, uh, advisory, an advisory committee and some working groups. Uh, local working groups in the areas. None of this is like 2006. She identified, you know, the Kootenai region and the peace region because we're bordering with Alberta.

[00:49:53] Cait Nelson: And at that time, those were where the closest cases were. We need to set up some advisory teams that include, you know, our agency partners. Experts, the, you know, hunting communities and the, the, the stakeholder groups, you know, First Nations and get all of those minds together at a table so that we can be collaborative in this and, um, and, and develop this program together.

[00:50:19] Cait Nelson: And so I think that's really a strength of our program and, and, and it's going to set us up for success. It's not going to be easy. There's, you know, there's, there's, there's very, very few examples out there where, where things have gone perfectly. But, um, I think having had these, uh, these working groups established and, and this, this collaborative team, um, we've been working together for, you know, 20 years now and have some, a really, um, strong foundation in partnership and communication.

[00:50:53] Cait Nelson: And they've, um, provided input on our surveillance and response plan. Which we update all the time because there's all this new information, so we have continually updated that and the plans available on our website as well if anyone wants to have a look at it, it details, um, you know, the, the steps that we propose and then this initial response phase, it's, it's, it's on our website.

[00:51:17] Cait Nelson: But having all of those, that input and that partnership at the, at the table, I think is really going to help us along in, in this. Um, and there, there'll definitely going to be some bumps in the road, but, um, but if we can work together and, um, and through everybody's networks of, you know, communication and education and, um, connection with the hunting community and the trapping community and accessing those samples and everyone just kind of doing their part.

[00:51:45] Cait Nelson: And we said in the beginning, um, I said in the beginning, how amazing just in week one, it's been, it's been pretty intense, but what's been really, um, you know, honestly, heartwarming is, is all these groups that have reached out and just said, how can we help? What do you need me to do? We have those, those, uh, all of those relationships, um, established and, and everybody is familiar with, with the plan and we can just hit the ground running.

[00:52:13] Cait Nelson: So, um, so that's what we're trying to 

[00:52:15] Travis Bader: do. So how can we help? We can submit samples for testing. We can get grapefruit spoons, send those ones on in, we can share this with other people so they can point them to the links, to the website where people can, can find this information. And, um, join in, join in, in the conversation and be, be involved as we're all stakeholders.

[00:52:40] Travis Bader: I mean, it's not us and the animals. Yeah. It's this is us. Absolutely. 

[00:52:44] Cait Nelson: It's all about us. Yeah. Yeah. All that input is really valuable. We always welcome, you know, hearing from, from, um, from folks. Um, insight, they've got, you know, questions. It just helps us to understand what the concerns are and, and what the values are on the landscape.

[00:53:06] Cait Nelson: And that, that really, um, you know, guides our, our work. So 

[00:53:12] Travis Bader: did you want to, uh, try some rapid fire? Like you've been very Thorough in all of your answers here, and you've actually answered a number of the questions that people have come up with. Okay. And we can always just refer them back. Okay. I wanna try rapid fire bunch of questions from the public.

[00:53:24] Travis Bader: Sure. Let's do it. Okay. Answer the public. So Jason Subic says, uh, and I'll condense it, essentially. Um, he's in Ontario and they can bait their whitetail deer over there and wants to know thoughts on baiting deer. Mm-Hmm. and how that relates with chronic wasting 

[00:53:41] Cait Nelson: disease. Right. Oh man, rapid fire this? Okay.

[00:53:46] Cait Nelson: Well, we 

[00:53:46] Travis Bader: don't, we don't have to rapid fire. 

[00:53:48] Cait Nelson: Yeah. Okay. Well, let me do my best. Some will be, some won't. Right. Okay. So, so yeah, we've identified, um, baiting as, and, and consistent with other places, uh, in North America that have implemented, uh, You know, bans on baiting because we know that these baiting bringing animals and we talked about this a little bit already, it has the potential of increasing disease transmission and these CWD hotspots.

[00:54:17] Cait Nelson: So, so it's something that is definitely on our list of risks and something that we would try to, to reduce those risks. Okay. 

[00:54:27] Travis Bader: Um, here's one, which is, uh, it was condensed. It was very emotional. It's a well known, uh, butcher who's, uh, deals with bovine all the time. And he wants to know why there's a different approach and response to, uh, Mad Cow BSE than there is to CWD.

[00:54:49] Travis Bader: He says in the UK, at least previously, they're testing every single beef that, that went through, um, And we don't have that same level of stringency. Is there, is that, would that be a political thing that we're not touching here? Would that be a scientific thing that might have an answer behind it? I 

[00:55:07] Cait Nelson: mean, I, I can, I can try and respond a little bit and again, not super familiar with, with the response to, to BSE.

[00:55:15] Cait Nelson: Um, it's, you know, just in general, it's, it's a different environment to be working in when you're working with captive animals versus free ranging animals. It's, it's, you know, there's, it's apples and oranges, right? Um, yes, we want to be testing as many animals as possible because that provides us with really important information so that we can base our decisions and our actions on science and, and that, that, uh, that data, but, um, but, you know, it's, it's not always practical to, uh, Access every single animal.

[00:55:48] Cait Nelson: But, you know, we have targeted some of our efforts, like with our mandatory testing under the hunting license in specific management units in the Kootenays that was done because we identified those as higher risk areas. And we really, it was so critical that we got this information from those units. And sure enough, that that.

[00:56:11] Cait Nelson: Hunting license condition and the mandatory testing. It did exactly what we needed it to do. It increased our sample numbers and that's where we got our first two positive cases. So, you know, if, if we didn't have that, um, that level of information from those units, we might've missed these. And so, you know, that's, that's been really important.

[00:56:31] Cait Nelson: And so we have taken some action to, to, uh, you know, make it mandatory for testing, but for now it's really been focused in on specific areas. 

[00:56:41] Travis Bader: Uh, turnaround time on testing. So when he submits a sample for testing, process the animal, it's in the freezer, it's stored somewhere. Uh, what, what does that turnaround time kind of 

[00:56:53] Cait Nelson: look like?

[00:56:53] Cait Nelson: Yeah, the turnaround on testing has been, um, a real challenge. Uh, I can say that. You know, across Canada, um, there's really a limited, uh, capacity in labs that are able to do the diagnostic test for CWD. And as it become, as it's continues to spread, programs are expanding the, um, pressure on these few lab facilities that do the testing has just increased.

[00:57:24] Cait Nelson: And so what that has meant for BC, we've always sent our, um, Samples to a lab in Saskatchewan, and they've been great to us. But over time, those turnaround time on results have just been getting longer and longer because of the demand on those facilities. And, um, and, yeah, they're just there hasn't been their resources to, um, To increase that capacity, uh, you know, in, in the same rate that programs are expanding.

[00:57:53] Cait Nelson: Right. And so that has been an issue. And I think the last couple of years were, were our, our worst years for turnaround on results. And I know that's very frustrating for hunters and it's frustrating for us too, because we want that information so that we can, um, you know, inform our risk and everything.

[00:58:13] Cait Nelson: Right. Uh, so, so we're. We're trying really hard to, um, to streamline that process as much as we can with, with, you know, the, the resources that we have available. Um, in the, you know, coming years, uh, we hope that we're going to be able to increase efficiency and testing. We're going to be setting up a, uh, testing, uh, facility, uh, at our BC agriculture lab.

[00:58:42] Cait Nelson: Um, just coming up now, I think we're going to submit our first samples next week. And so we're hoping that that's going to help. This is the first time we've had access to a lab in BC. We're hoping that that's going to help, um, CWD detection, I think, um, you know, there's even more support for. Forgetting that system, you know, as streamlined as possible so that we can get, have access to that, that the results as soon as possible.

[00:59:13] Travis Bader: Within the management plan of CWD, has there been any conversation or consideration to re issuance of a tag if a hunter canceled their tag and had a positive result? Yeah, 

[00:59:24] Cait Nelson: that's a really good question. And of course, it's come up. Um, you know, it's something that we will, you know, consider. I'm sure, uh, there hasn't been a lot of discussion on that front so far.

[00:59:38] Cait Nelson: Um, but we know from examples from other places. They've been able to do this. I know, you know, in Alberta issued a, uh, replacement tag for a while, um, until the number of cases just became, uh, sort of, um, Overwhelming to them. And, and, and in that situation, it wasn't feasible to issue replacement tags anymore.

[01:00:01] Cait Nelson: So every situation is different and, um, and we're going to have to evaluate that for in the BC context to see what's going to make sense for, for, for us here. 

[01:00:12] Travis Bader: So I butcher my own meat. I'm very fortunate. My wife's a red seal chef and part of her training was to have butchery training and all the rest.

[01:00:20] Travis Bader: So. I've got a lot of help there, which is really good. Or maybe she's got help for me, but, um, but a lot of people don't, if you have a CWD animal and you've taken it to the butcher, and now we know about these prions and how they can transmit, um, what happens now? Or do we now have a full butcher, uh, supply full of animals that could have been clean, but are now being.

[01:00:52] Travis Bader: Put out with these 

[01:00:53] Cait Nelson: prions. Yeah, I think, um, uh, butchers have some pretty strict protocols, um, within their, you know, practices that, you know, decontaminating between, you know, animals and, and making sure that animals are, um, processed, uh, individually. Again, I'm not, um, super familiar with that process, but that is my understanding that, um, that, you know, hunters have to follow some pretty.

[01:01:22] Cait Nelson: Or rather sorry, meat cutters have to follow some pretty strict standards on that, on that front. So yeah, I, you know, obviously if a, if a CW positive animal is submitted to a, to a butcher, you know, there, there would be some, some follow up and making sure that, you know, all the All the Ts were crossed, but, um, I trust that, you know, that, that system, um, you know, their, their practices are, are dialed and, uh, and, and that's sort of their, that that's, that's their, that's their realm.

[01:01:52] Cait Nelson: That's their. 

[01:01:53] Travis Bader: Right. Fair enough. So here we have an interesting question because, you know, a lot of these prions are going to be found in the spine or brain is typical knowledge. Now we're learning about in the, uh, in the. Well, when you say the lymph nodes, yes. So I, now we don't have confirmed cases of a transmission from the animal to the human.

[01:02:16] Travis Bader: It's recommended that the human, if they have a positive result, that they dispose of it and they do it properly, preferably through incineration, through, through the province and. Are they able to minimize the spread of prions through proper butchery techniques that can avoid cutting into the spine, into the brain and then into these areas.

[01:02:40] Travis Bader: So if they wanted to make that educated decision themselves, they're rolling those discs, those dice in a, maybe a more favorable way. 

[01:02:48] Cait Nelson: Yeah. Well, what we can say to that is, um, we know that these. preons can be present in any part of the body, but they, they do tend to concentrate in certain tissues. We call high risk tissues.

[01:03:01] Cait Nelson: And that includes, you know, the central nervous system, the spinal cord, the brain, um, yeah, these lymph nodes and organs. They do those. Those types of tissues in the body do tend to have a higher concentration of prion material. And so the advice is that if possible, limit handling of that, limit cutting through, you know, the spinal cord and, and, um, contaminating your tools, um, as much as, as much as possible, just to limit the handling of that and then, um, proper cleanup afterwards.

[01:03:37] Cait Nelson: Right. So, um, decontaminating surfaces, making sure tools are cleaned, uh, as much as we've talked about how these prions are indestructible, there's actually some paper that was published, uh, recently in the last few years that, uh, indicated that a 40 percent bleach solution, uh, on metal surfaces will help to, um, sort of, deactivate those prions.

[01:04:05] Cait Nelson: And so, uh, so that applies to, you know, knives and, and, you know, a stainless steel, you know, bench, if you've got something like that. Um, so getting a good bleach wash of those is recommended. Um, does it, you know, it, it's not. Doesn't seem to be as effective on other surfaces like concrete or wood or, you know, those types of things, but you know, that's, that's how we clean up our, our, um, spaces when we're sampling is, is a good bleach solution.

[01:04:34] Cait Nelson: So, you know, just general, um, general hygiene as well. If you can wear gloves when you're handling this material, wash your hands, all that kind of stuff. Which is, you know, just kind of applies to everything. But, uh, yeah, 

[01:04:47] Travis Bader: 40 percent bleach. So I like that. I've always used quat, which is what they use in the restaurant industries, but this is probably a cheaper, easier, 

[01:04:57] Cait Nelson: better.

[01:04:57] Cait Nelson: Yeah. And, you know, it, I don't think it's, um, will, uh, get rid of all of the prions. Like there's still potential, but it does seem to help. 

[01:05:11] Travis Bader: So here's my question. Is there anything that we haven't talked about?

[01:05:18] Travis Bader: Wow, I 

[01:05:19] Cait Nelson: think we've, uh, We've covered a lot of bases. I'm trying to think of what we talked about. We've had a good, good long conversation here. Yeah, no, I just, I just really appreciate, um, you know, I know I've already said it, but I just want to reiterate the, um, how much We value our partnerships out there, especially with the hunting community, um, and, and our stakeholder groups, um, they really are the advocates for wildlife out there.

[01:05:50] Cait Nelson: And it's, um, it's been really rewarding in my career to work with those groups and see the passion and, and dedication and. everyone showing up to volunteer and, and, and just help out wherever they can. Um, so I just, I just, I guess I just want to say thank you for that and, and for that support. And just to say, you know, you really are, um, you really do have an important role in this.

[01:06:16] Cait Nelson: Um, we hope, we hope to, to move through this CWD situation and, you know, in, in lockstep with, with those groups. I know everybody is wanting the same thing and we just, uh, um, really appreciate having that support. Um. So, so yeah, just to, just to shout out there. 

[01:06:36] Travis Bader: Well, Kate, I'm sure I could speak for anyone who's watching or listening.

[01:06:39] Travis Bader: We really appreciate you taking the time to give this information in a very thorough fashion. And we're going to have links on the website, links on the description so people can see where they can find more information as it evolves. But thank you very much for being on the Silvercore Podcast. 

[01:06:55] Cait Nelson: Thank you so much, Travis.