As the battle against the deadly chronic wasting disease (CWD) heats up in hotspots across America, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is taking the proper precautions to protect their natural resources.

Establishing a new antlerless elk hunting unit in the Custer State Park region, officials believe this will give them additional data and allow them to use what they call, adaptive management when it comes to CWD.

Increasing available antlerless tags from 20 to 60, the department is hopeful that additional hunting pressure will alleviate the risk of infection.  Currently running at an infection rate of 17 percent, officials are concerned that if left unattended, the disease could infiltrate more elk as well as whitetail and mule deer.

“Chronic wasting disease prevalence rates from the 2016 elk hunting season are a concern for both the short and long term status of the Black Hills elk population,” stated Tony Leif, director of the Division of Wildlife. “This additional harvest will help us better understand prevalence rates, reduce numbers where elk congregate and provide additional information to construct season structures for the 2018 hunting season.”

The proposal is set to be finalized next week in Brookings, SD.