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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)       

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of infected cervids (deer, elk and moose) eventually resulting in death.

Current Status:

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.

In Pennsylvania, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been detected in these 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 from 2012 -2017, 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. In addition, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer and/or elk in many other states and provinces.

Rules and regulations regarding CWD in Pennsylvania are found in the Game Commission executive order (PDF) and Title 58 regulations.

 

Public Meetings

  • Thursday, Nov. 2, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Oliver Township Volunteer Fire Company, 184 Bodenhorn Road, Coolspring, PA  15730. This event is sponsored by Pennsylvania State Representatives Cris Dush and Tommy Sankey. An Open House format will maximize access to information. There are no formal presentations. Those attending can explore four stations at their own pace:  What is CWD; Specific information regarding Disease Management Area 3 (DMA3); Regulations specific to DMAs; and Actions the Pennsylvania Game Commission has taken and continues to take regarding this important wildlife health issue. Agency staff will be on hand to interact on a one-on-one basis and answer questions. Participants will have the same opportunity, no matter what time they arrive. There will be an opportunity to provide written comments.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Locations of Cooperating Processors & Taxidermists, High-risk Parts Dumpsters, and Deer Head Collection (PDF)

To learn more about chronic wasting disease, and precautions in place to limit its influence on Pennsylvania's wild deer populations, please explore the following:

For Hunters

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 and Printable list PDF). You will be notified of the test results.

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 the Interactive map and Printable list (PDF). 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.

DMAP permits in DMA 2 and DMA 3 have sold out for the 2017-18 seasons. The Game Commission created DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) units in DMA 2 and DMA 3 to focus hunter effort in areas where CWD-positive deer have been found. 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. The North Unit of DMAP 2 contains portions of southern Blair County and northwestern Bedford County. The South Unit of DMA 2 contains eastern Bedford County and most of Fulton County. DMAP Unit 3045 encompasses DMA 3 in totality.

Where can I take my deer? Interactive map.  Printable list (PDF).
 

For Taxidermists & Processors

If you are presented with a deer or elk harvested in CWD-infected areas, please contact the nearest Game Commission region office for guidance. A Game Commission representative may collect tissues, provide proper processing and disposal procedures, and supply information to educate hunters. Additional information is available for processors and taxidermists.

CWD in Pennsylvania        

 

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

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.

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 Control (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 these 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 since 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. 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?        
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 9/21/17)
High-risk parts may not be imported to Pennsylvania from the following specific states and Canadian provinces: Alberta, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (only Allegany and Washington Counties), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (only Madison and Oneida Counties), North Dakota, Ohio (only Holmes County), Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia (only Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, and Clarke Counties), West Virginia (only Hampshire, Hardy and Morgan Counties), 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:

  • Do not shoot, handle or consume an animal that appears sick.
  • Wear rubber or nitrile gloves when field dressing.
  • Bone-out the meat to remove high-risk parts such as brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes.
  • Avoid cutting into or through the backbone, either lengthwise or across the spine.
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
  • Thoroughly clean hands and processing tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
  • Ask your deer processor to process your meat individually or process your own meat.
  • Have your animal processed in the area of the state where it was harvested so high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of. It is illegal to take high-risk parts out of any Pennsylvania Disease Management Area.
  • Do not import high-risk parts from areas where CWD is known to exist.
  • Transport out of any Pennsylvania Disease Management Area, or bring back to Pennsylvania only permitted parts: 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. If you plan to hunt in CWD-positive areas, and want to avoid transporting parts that are banned, take a moment to view this video.
  • Don't consume high-risk parts. Normal field-dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, high-risk parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
  • Have your animal tested, and do not consume meat from any animal that tests positive for 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:

  • If your deer was harvested in a DMA, FREE TESTING is available. Deposit the head of your deer into any CWD Collection Container. The harvest tag must be filled out completely, legible, and physically attached to the deer’s ear. The head must be placed in a plastic garbage bag and sealed before being placed in the collection bin. You will be notified of test results. Skulls and antlers will not be returned.
  • Take your deer to any processor or taxidermist located within the DMA. You may also take your deer to any processor, taxidermist or disposal site that is approved for that DMA.
  • If you live within the DMA where your deer was harvested, you may take the deer home to process. Double bag the high-risk parts, and set them out for a commercial refuse pickup.
  • The least preferred option, though lawful, is to bone out the deer in the woods and leave the high-risk parts in the field.

Where can I have my deer tested?

  • If your deer was harvested within a DMA, FREE TESTING is available. Deposit the head of your deer into any CWD Collection Container. The harvest tag must be filled out completely, legible, and physically attached to the deer’s ear. The head must be placed in a plastic garbage bag and sealed before being placed in the collection bin. You will be notified of test results. Skulls and antlers will not be returned.
  • Hunters can submit their harvested deer to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) for testing.

Is the meat of a CWD positive deer safe to eat?
The Centers for Disease Control 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 website.

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 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. Up-to-date information on the status of CWD can be found on state or province websites. The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance is also a reliable online resource. Regulations prohibit the importation of any high-risk parts or materials from cervids harvested, taken, or killed within areas where CWD has been detected.


What can you do as a meat processor to prevent the spread of CWD?
Determine if the cervid carcass presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or area, including Pennsylvania DMAs.

  1. If the cervid carcass IS NOT from a CWD-positive state or area:
    1. Wear latex or rubber gloves when processing the carcass.
    2. Bone-out the meat from the cervid to remove high-risk parts such as brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes.
    3. Avoid cutting into or through the backbone, either lengthwise or across the spine.
    4. Dispose of butcher waste through the trash, or in food waste dumpsters intended for regulated landfills.
    5. Thoroughly clean hands and processing tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    6. Do not allow animals to have access to processing area or processing waste.
  2. If the cervid carcass IS from an area where CWD has been detected:
    1. Process carcasses individually without mixing meat products between animals.
    2. If high-risk parts are present, contact the appropriate Game Commission region office for disposal procedures.
    3. If no high-risk parts are present, proceed according to the recommendations in item 1a. and 1b. above.
    4. Thoroughly clean hands and processing tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    5. CWD-positive meat or waste should not be rendered, burned in burn barrels, deposited in bone piles, or spread in areas where it can come in contact with other animals. Contact the appropriate Game Commission region office with questions.
    6. Do not allow animals to have access to processing areas or processing waste.
  3. 3. If the cervid has evidence of being tagged – actual ear tags, torn ears, or holes in the ears – this may indicate an escape from a captive cervid facility and the appropriate Game Commission region office should be contacted.

What can you do as a taxidermist to prevent the spread of CWD?
Determine if the specimen presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or area, including Pennsylvania DMAs.

  1. If the specimen IS NOT from a CWD-positive state or area (including Pennsylvania DMAs):
    1. Wear rubber or nitrile gloves when working on the specimen.
    2. Thoroughly clean hands and taxidermy tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    3. Dispose of carcass parts through the trash, or in food waste dumpsters intended for regulated landfills.
    4. Do not allow animals to have access to your taxidermy area or taxidermy waste.
  2. If the specimen IS from an area where CWD has been detected (including Pennsylvania DMAs) AND if high-risk parts are present (such as whole head with cape and antlers, or whole carcass):
    1. Notify the local  Game Commission region office.
    2. After receiving authorization from the Game Commission, the taxidermist may cape out the head and remove the antlers being careful to remove all visible brain and spinal cord material from the skull cap and cape.
    3. Wear latex or rubber gloves when working on the specimen.
    4. Thoroughly clean hands and taxidermy tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    5. CWD-positive meat or waste should not be rendered, burned in burn barrels, deposited in bone piles or spread in areas where it can come in contact with other animals. Contact your Game Commission region office with questions.
    6. Do not allow animals to have access to your taxidermy area or taxidermy waste.

If the specimen has evidence of being tagged – actual ear tags, torn ears, or holes in the ears – this may indicate an escape from a captive cervid facility and the appropriate Game Commission region office should be contacted.