By now pretty much every deer hunter has heard of chronic wasting disease (CWD), and unfortunately an increasing number of deer herds are being directly impacted by it every year. There is a lot we do not know about CWD, but as a deer hunter there is much you should know, including the following facts:
- CWD is a 100% fatal disease found in most deer species, including elk, moose, mule and white-tailed deer
- There is no vaccine or cure for CWD
- As of February 2022, CWD has been identified in 29 U.S. states, 5 Canadian provinces, Korea (from an elk imported from Canada in 1997), Norway and Finland
- Multiple scientific studies have confirmed population declines over time in white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk populations from CWD
- Eradication of CWD after it has become established in a wild deer population currently does not appear feasible with the tools available
- CWD can spread through urine, feces, saliva, blood, deer parts, and via live deer
Research also shows:
- Deer with CWD die at three times the annual rate of deer without the disease
- Variances in infectivity likely exists among transport systems (for example, saliva may be ten times as infectious as urine)
- Plants can bind, uptake and transport prions from infected soil; and, hamsters that ate the plants contracted the disease
- CWD can experimentally infect squirrel monkeys, pigs and laboratory mice that carry some human genes
As of February 2022, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, studies like the ones above raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people. If you hunt in an area where CWD is present in the deer population, strongly consider having your deer or elk tested for CWD before you eat the meat, and follow these additional precautions.
Deer hunters should also know where CWD has been confirmed to ensure they have an animal tested following a successful hunt, and so that they follow all carcass transport regulations with respect to moving high-risk parts of harvested animals. High-risk parts include the brain, eyes, spleen, spinal cord and lymph glands, and multiple states restrict high-risk parts from entering from states that have confirmed CWD. Additional states prohibit hunters from bringing these parts into their state from any other state – regardless if that other state has confirmed CWD or not. Other than moving live animals, moving high-risk parts is the most likely way to move the disease and that’s why most states restrict or prohibit all movement of these parts.
What NDA is Doing About CWD
The National Deer Association (NDA) is at the forefront of the advocacy arena for CWD issues, working both independently and with other conservation partners to engage on legislative bills relating to policy impacting CWD management and hunters. For example:
- NDA helped initiate and support the “CWD Management Act” of 2017. This bipartisan bill would support efforts to develop and implement management strategies, research and methods to control the further spread of this disease by authorizing funding to state and tribal agencies responsible for wildlife management to implement strategies to address CWD
- NDA was an invited speaker at a recent CWD Symposium. Wildlife scientists, QDMA and other experts from across the U.S. gathered in Lansing, Michigan in October 2017 for a landmark discussion on this devastating disease
- NDA has been invited to speak on CWD at numerous other venues including conferences, state wildlife agency meetings, legislative meetings, hunter seminars and more
To track NDA’s efforts related to CWD advocacy and other issues impacting deer and deer hunters, go to the NDA Advocacy page.
NDA is a conservation sponsor of the CWD-Alliance and through this partnership, along with a few other key conservation groups, we’re currently leveraging the weight of multiple organizations to help secure funding for badly needed CWD research. We have a history of funding CWD projects; for example, NDA solely provided $38,000 to Texas A&M University-Kingsville and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to support a genetic study of white-tailed deer to provide essential knowledge to guide CWD management efforts.
NDA’s Recommendations for Deer Hunters in CWD Areas
To answer the concerns of deer hunters in areas affected by CWD, NDA has compiled recommend practices and answers to frequently asked questions in a free document that can be downloaded and easily distributed in affected communities.
NDA is raising awareness of this dreaded disease through multiple formats. It is our goal to provide information for hunters to help them be strong partners in the fight against CWD. Knowledgeable hunters are crucial to limiting the spread of and managing for this disease. Below are some actions taken by NDA to assist in this fight:
Launched the #KnowCWD campaign
Implemented a social media campaign providing short CWD facts for hunters
Launched the #FightCWD campaign
Implemented a social media campaign informing hunters of steps they can take to help prevent the spread of CWD and protect the future of deer hunting.
NDA staff have been guests on numerous podcasts to provide information for hunters on CWD research, management efforts and best practices
NDA staff have written numerous articles for Quality Whitetails, our annual Whitetail Reports, our website, and other venues. Some are included below:
CWD is one of the biggest issues deer hunters and managers are facing today and will likely face in the foreseeable future. It has the potential to impact long term herd and hunter numbers like few other current threats. Impacts from hemorrhagic disease, predators and habitat loss can all be curbed to some degree or accounted for. CWD has the potential to be different. Very, very different. At NDA we continue to fight for deer hunters by helping support CWD research and management efforts and ensuring hunters have access to the best possible information on this terrible disease. That’s just one more reason we say, “NDA – it’s where deer hunters belong”.
Where you can get more info
*Photo of Michigan CWD sampling courtesy of Anna Mitterling