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Chronic Wasting Disease - CWD

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease , transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) found in wild and captive deer and elk. Affecting the brain and nervous system, infected animals suffer from chronic weight loss, excessive salivation, loss of motor skills and it is always fatal to the animal. 

Although relatively little is known about CWD and its transmission, research has shown that it is transmissible between susceptible species. The exact mode of transmission is not known. One theory is  that contact with body fluids such as saliva, mucus, feces, or urine. Another possibility is that carcasses may aid in the spread of the disease.

CWD has been found in Whitetail deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, and Rocky Mountain elk.


Testing for CWD is being done in numerous states to try to determine the extent of the problem. So hunters and land owners are playing an important role in the testing process by allowing local game departments to collect parts of their kill for testing.

The only tests available have to be done on dead animals.

CWD has an incubation period that may be as long as 5 years.


There is no evidence that CWD is linked to any disease in humans or domesticated livestock (other than deer and elk). Of course it is also recommended that you not eat any deer known or thought to have CWD.
Confirmed Cases
CWD has been confirmed in in 12 states and one of those states it has only been confirmed in captive animals. States that have reported CWD include Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

In Canada it has been confirmed in Alberta, Ontario*, Saskatchewan,

*confirmed in captive animals

With our current understandings of the disease preventing the spread of CWD is going to take the cooperation of a diverse group of individuals and agency. Hunters will play an important role by providing samples where needed and with population reduction programs where herd densities are trying to be reduced. Hunters will also have to exercise caution when transporting animals harvested in high probability areas. Land owners will be critical for access rights, shooting  animals, and reporting any unusual deer or elk behavior.

State and federal agencies will need to take appropriate measures  to monitor and regulate game farms without making knee jerk decisions.


There is currently no known cure or preventative vaccine for Chronic Wasting Disease. Generally if a case of CWD is found in a captive herd the herd is quarantined, destroyed and tested. In states where numerous cases of CWD have been detected management plans have called for large numbers of deer to be killed and tested. This testing gives responsible parties a better estimate of number of cases of the disease and helps to reduce the herds population density. 



Resources & Related Links
USDA National Wildlife research Center
Wisconsin CWD
CWD Timeline
Arkansas CWD Testing
Colorado Moose Test Positive For CWD
More Colorado Moose Test Positive For CWD (2006)

CWD by State
Health & First Aid
Care Of Game Meat
CWD Testing
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Tennessee Elk
Florida CWD
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