Chronic Wasting Disease

What is CWD? 

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is caused by a contagious, fatal prion, or abnormal protein, that affects cervids such as white-tailed deer, elk, and mule deer. Prions associated with the disease are found throughout the body of infected animals, but are found in higher concentrations in the eyes, lymph nodes, and nervous tissues. For some animals, it may be a year or more before symptoms develop, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness, and other neurologic symptoms. Infected animals shed prions through saliva, feces, blood, and urine. Other animals can become infected through direct contact with an infected animal and through indirect contact from an infected environment. Once the disease occurs in an area, evidence demonstrates eradication is unlikely.

Management of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) requires a long-term adaptive management approach that will be refined through new science and information. Current CWD response operations are focused on:

  • Continued statewide surveillance to detect additional positives.
  • Determining the prevalence and spatial distribution of CWD.
  • Determining the origin of any CWD positive cervid.
  • Applying management actions to limit the spread of CWD.
  • Providing accurate and relevant information on CWD to the public, agency staff, affected governmental agencies, and other stakeholders. 
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