Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of infected cervids (deer, elk and moose) eventually resulting in death. CWD-infected deer, on average, do not display clinical symptoms of disease for 18 to 24 months. CWD Updates
Following the detection of CWD in both captive and free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania, an executive order (PDF) was issued by the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas (DMAs). Within DMAs, rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; the removal of high-risk cervid parts; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids are prohibited. Increased testing continues in these areas to determine the distribution of the disease. Newly confirmed cases alter the boundaries of DMAs as the Game Commission continues to manage the disease and minimize its effect on free ranging cervids.
During 2019, due to the detection of CWD, in both captive and free-ranging deer, DMAs 2 and 3 have been expanded, while no changes have been made to DMA 4. In addition, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer and/or elk in many other states and provinces. For the most up-to-date maps and descriptions of DMA boundaries, visit the interactive map.
You can help the Game Commission monitor and limit the impact of CWD. The threat of CWD is real. Your participation in this testing effort is critical to manage this serious disease. Taking actions today may help protect deer and deer hunting into the future.
FREE testing of deer taken in any DMA: If you harvest a deer in a Disease Management Area (DMA), please deposit the deer’s head, with your completed harvest tag affixed to the deer’s ear, at one of the head collection containers(marked as “H” or “HD” on the Interactive map). You will be notified of the test results. Locations of cooperating processors and taxidermists, high-risk parts dumpsters, and deer head collection sites for 2019-20 are not yet available.
Help us contain the spread of CWD: Please deposit high-risk parts from your deer in a high-risk parts disposal dumpster, marked with “D” or “HD” on theInteractive map. High-risk parts include the head, lymph nodes, spleen, and spinal column. You may also dispose of any other deer parts not used by the hunter in these dumpsters. Locations of cooperating processors and taxidermists, high-risk parts dumpsters, and deer head collection sites for 2019-20 are not yet available.
DMAP permits in DMA 2, DMA 3 and DMA 4: New DMAP units for 2019-20 coming soon.
The Game Commission created DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) units in DMA 2, DMA 3 and DMA4 to focus hunter effort in areas where CWD-positive deer have been found. Hunters can apply for antlerless deer permits in those DMAP units through the automated license sales system. Although these DMAP permits can be used on public and private lands within the appropriate DMAP unit, hunters must receive permission from private landowners prior to hunting. Although these DMAP permits can be used on public and private lands within the appropriate DMAP unit, hunters must receive permission from private landowners prior to hunting.
Where can I take my deer? Interactive map. Locations of cooperating processors and taxidermists, high-risk parts dumpsters, and deer head collection sites for 2019-20 are not yet available.What precautions should hunters take?
What if I harvest a deer within a Disease Management Area (DMA)? Is the meat of a CWD positive deer safe to eat?What if I harvest a deer with evidence of being ear tagged?What if I hunt in an area affected by CWD?What if I'm hunting outside Pennsylvania?Simple Precautions When Pursuing or Handling Deer & ElkOpens In A New Window (CWDA*)Field Dressing, Boning and Home Processing: VIDEOSOpens In A New Window (CWDA*)PA Animal Diagnostics Laboratory FAQs - questions and answers about having your deer tested (PDF)
If you are presented with a deer or elk harvested in CWD-infected areas, please contact the nearest Game Commission region office for guidance. Additional information is available for processors and taxidermists.
What is Chronic Wasting Disease?
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious, always-fatal disease that infects deer and elk in Pennsylvania. It is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Other diseases in the TSE family include Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease in cattle; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans; and Scrapie in sheep and goats. It was first recognized in deer and elk in Colorado in 1967. The cause of CWD is believed to be an abnormal prion (proteinaceous infectious particle). Prions are concentrated in the brain, nervous system, and lymphoid tissues of infected animals. The disease causes death of brain cells resulting in microscopic holes in the brain tissue. CWD-infected deer, on average, do not display clinical symptoms of disease for 18 to 24 months.
What animals get CWD?
CWD has been diagnosed in white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, and hybrids thereof, as well as elk, red deer, moose, and reindeer.
Is CWD dangerous to humans?
There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or traditional livestock. However, the Centers for Disease ControlOpens In A New Window (CDC) reports that “To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people. However, animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk. These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.”
Where has CWD been found in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been detected in four Disease Management Areas (DMAs): DMA 1 on a captive deer farm in Adams County during 2012 (DMA 1 has since been eliminated); DMA 2 in multiple free-ranging deer in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, and Fulton counties during 2012, and captive deer farms in Bedford, Franklin, and Fulton counties during 2017; DMA 3 in two captive deer farms in Jefferson County during 2014 and a free-ranging deer in Clearfield County during 2017. DMA 4 in a captive deer at a facility in Lancaster County during 2018. View a map of positive cases by township (PDF). In addition, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer and/or elk in many other states and provinces.
How is CWD spread?
CWD is transmitted both directly through animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through food and soil contaminated with bodily secretions including feces, urine, and saliva. Contaminated carcasses or high-risk carcass parts may also spread the disease indirectly through environmental contamination. Prions are very stable in the environment and remain infectious for decades.
Why should I stop feeding deer?
Feeding cervids within any Disease Management Area is unlawful. Because any concentration of deer or elk assists in the spread of diseases, immediately stop supplemental feeding programs. For more information, read Please Don't Feed the Deer (PDF).
What is being done to manage CWD in Pennsylvania?
Several state and federal agencies, including the Game Commission, Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture (PDA), Health (PDH), and Environmental Protection (DEP), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaboratively work on a response plan, which details methods of prevention, surveillance, and response regarding CWD. Activities designed to reduce the risks associated with this disease are ongoing. Surveillance for CWD and other diseases began in Pennsylvania in 1998 and will continue to better understand the prevalence and distribution of the disease.
How can I tell if a deer or elk has CWD?
Animals infected with CWD do not show signs of infection for 12 or more months; many infected animals look completely healthy. Late stage symptoms of CWD-infected animals include an extreme loss of body condition; excessive drinking, urination, salivation, and drooling; and behavioral and neurologic changes such as repetitive walking patterns, droopy ears, a wide-based stance, and listlessness. Some animals lose their fear of humans and predators. There is no known cure. It is important to note that these symptoms are characteristic of diseases other than CWD.
What should I do if I see a deer or elk displaying signs that suggest CWD?
If you see a deer or elk that you believe is sick, do not disturb or attempt to kill or remove the animal. Accurately document the location of the animal and immediately contact the nearest Game Commission region office.
What are high-risk carcass parts?
High-risk carcass parts, where the CWD prion (causative agent) concentrates are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes, and lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone (vertebra); spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; and brain-tanned hide.
Why are there restrictions on the movement of high-risk parts?
Regulations prohibit the removal or export from any Disease Management Area (DMA) established within the Commonwealth any high-risk parts or materials resulting from cervids harvested, taken, or killed, including by vehicular accident, within any Disease Management Area. Regulations also prohibit the importation of any high-risk parts or materials from cervids harvested, taken, or killed in other areas where CWD has been detected. Although CWD has been detected in both captive and free ranging deer, the Game Commission's goal continues to be to prevent further introductions of CWD into our state and to prevent spread within the state. The movement of high-risk carcass parts is a potential avenue through which CWD could be spread. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have developed regulations to prohibit the importation of high-risk carcass parts from states and provinces with CWD infected deer.
From where is the importation of high-risk parts prohibited? (Last update June 2019)
High-risk parts may not be imported in Pennsylvania from the following specific states and Canadian provinces: Alberta, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Quebec, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
What carcass parts are safe to move?
The following cervid parts may be safely transported into and within Pennsylvania: meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; cleaned hides without the head; skull plates and/or antlers cleaned of all brain tissue; upper canine teeth without soft tissue; or finished taxidermy mounts. These parts may be moved out of Pennsylvania's Disease Management Areas.
What precautions should hunters take?
Hunters should only harvest animals that appear healthy, and take reasonable precautions like wearing gloves while field dressing an animal and washing hands and equipment thoroughly when finished. Hunters in areas where CWD is known to exist should follow these guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease:
What if I harvest a deer within a Disease Management Area (DMA)?
If you harvest a deer within a DMA, proceed with these options in handling high-risk parts:
Where can I have my deer tested?
Is the meat of a CWD positive deer safe to eat?
The Centers for Disease ControlOpens In A New Window recommends that people DO NOT eat meat from animals that test positive for CWD. From the CDC website: “Animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk. These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people. . . If CWD could spread to people, it would most likely be through eating of infected deer and elk…[T]o date, no CWD infections have been reported in people. . . If your animal tests positive for CWD, do not eat meat from that animal.” More information and further recommendations can be found on the Center for Disease Control websiteOpens In A New Window.
What if I harvest a deer with evidence of being ear tagged?
Hunters should immediately notify the nearest Game Commission region office if their harvested deer has evidence of being tagged; this could be actual ear tags, torn ears, or holes in the ears. This may indicate an escape from a captive cervid facility.
What if I hunt in Pennsylvania in an area affected by CWD?
Hunters should continue to enjoy deer and elk hunting in Pennsylvania. However, with the discovery of CWD, hunters should become familiar with the restrictions in the regulations and any Executive Order (PDF) for any designated Disease Management Area (DMA) such as prohibitions on feeding and rehabilitation of deer, the use of urine-based lures, and transportation out of any DMA of specific cervid carcass parts. Regulations prohibit the removal or export of any high-risk parts or materials from cervids harvested, taken, or killed, including by vehicular accident, within any Disease Management Area (DMA) established within the Commonwealth. Regulations also prohibit the importation of any high-risk parts or materials from cervids harvested, taken, or killed within areas where CWD has been detected.
What if I'm hunting outside Pennsylvania?
Hunters traveling outside of Pennsylvania should consult State and Province CWD Regulations. Regulations prohibit the importation of any high-risk parts or materials from cervids harvested, taken, or killed within areas where CWD has been detected. The Chronic Wasting Disease AllianceOpens In A New Window is also a reliable online resource.
Protocol for processors and taxidermists to help prevent the spread of CWD
Determine if the cervid carcass presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or a disease management area in Pennsylvania.
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