Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer


CWD in White-tailed Deer

There are many diseases that can impact white-tailed deer but none is more deadly than Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). In fact, it’s one of the bigger ones threatening wildlife management within the US. The CWD disease is already found within many states, but all states have restricted the commercial movement of deer between states. Most have strict guidelines and procedures for moving white-tailed deer within states.

Neither the state wildlife agencies nor deer hunters want it.

CWD in the News

Source: [Concerned about captive deer operations transmitting diseases to wild herds, the Boone and Crockett Club now officially supports state bans on commercial import and export of deer or elk.

“Of all the presentations, seminars and findings, I was most pleased to see the attention given to the connections between chronic wasting disease (CWD) and the game farming industry. This has been on our radar, and on the radar of QDMA, other conservation groups, state agencies and sportsmen for quite some time,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club’s Records Committee.


Hale added, “Congratulations to QDMA on one of the most impressive and well-run summits I’ve had the pleasure of attending and for keeping this issue front and center.”

CWD is a degenerative brain disease that affects elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and moose. The disease can be transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine, and indirectly through environmental contamination. CWD is fatal in deer, elk and moose, but there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, according to the CDC and The World Health Organization.

Documented cases of CWD have been found in captive and/or wild deer and elk in 22 states and two Canadian provinces. In some, but not all, cases where the disease has been found in wild populations, the disease is present in captive populations within these regions.

In 2002, the Boone and Crockett Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Mule Deer Foundation formed the CWD Alliance. Its purpose was to pool resources, share information and collaborate on ways to positively address the CWD issue. Other organizations have since joined the Alliance, including QDMA and the Wildlife Management Institute, which now administers the Alliance website www.cwd-info.org.

“Evidence strongly suggests that captive animals infected with CWD can serve as the source for the spread of the disease to other captive animals, and between captive animals and wild populations,” said Hale. “To reduce the risk to wild deer populations, several states passed laws prohibiting game farming or live captive deer and elk importation, but now they are fighting efforts to expand captive deer and elk breeding and shooting operations within their jurisdictions. The captive cervid industry is persistent in proposing new legislations to overturn these laws, or transfer the authority of captive deer and elk from state fish and game agencies to their respective departments of agriculture.”]

CWD and Wildlife Management

There is no vaccine or treatment for whitetail infected with CWD. To make matters worse, there is no way to test living animals. Once CWD is present within a herd, hunting to decrease the density of deer in the population (to limit spread) or even complete depopulation to eradicate CWD has proven unsuccessful. The CWD prion can remain viable within the environment with or without deer present. If this continues, is this “game over” for whitetail and deer hunting in the US?

The prevalence of CWD is rising at an alarming rate in some infected wild deer populations. Prevention of this deer disease is the only effective method for managing diseases in free-ranging white-tailed deer populations. As a result, what can be done is minimizing the spread of CWD by restricting all transporting of deer, both within and between states. Wildlife management agencies are trying to stop the movement of deer, but game ranches and commercial breeders want relaxed regulations.

Managing for wildlife and habitat