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
always fatal to the animal.
Photo by Todd Koehler ©
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.
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.