Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a serious neurologic disease affecting white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is member of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases. CWD is fatal in these species and is spread through bodily fluids like feces, saliva, blood or urine. It is transmitted either through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, plants, food or water. CWD is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep.

Although it has been associated with captive deer and elk in the past, CWD is also found in free-ranging white-tailed deer in several Midwestern states close to Indiana including Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.

CWD surveillance

Statewide sampling

Each year, Indiana DNR biologists and staff at DNR fish & wildlife areas collect tissue samples from hunter-harvested and road-killed deer for CWD testing. Samples are collected from across the state to monitor the presence of CWD in Indiana. To date, all deer sampled have tested negative for the disease.

Sampling in northwest Indiana, 2017

CWD positive wild deer have been found approximately 25 miles west of the Indiana border in Kankakee County, Illinois (view map | printable version in PDF). As a result, Indiana DNR is conducting intensified CWD Surveillance in northwest Indiana during firearms opening weekend, Nov. 18-20, 2017. DNR biologists will be stationed at Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area, LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area, and the two businesses listed below to collect tissue samples from hunter-harvested deer for CWD testing.

Business

Address

Date

Time

Phil's Truck Stop

3347 S.R. 10, Lake Village

11/18 and 11/19

8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Jay’s Deer Processing

2651 Clifford Rd, Valparaiso

11/18 and 11/19

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you have questions about where to take your deer for CWD sampling, call (812) 822-3303.

Hunters in northwest Indiana interested in having their deer tested for CWD may bring their deer to any of the locations listed above on the dates specified. Sample submission for CWD testing is voluntary, but strongly encouraged.

Tissue samples can be collected from bucks and does that are at least 1.5 years old, but not from fawns. Tissues needed for CWD testing are the retropharyngeal lymph nodes located on either side of the esophagus at the base of the head.

For hunters who wish to mount their deer, samples can be collected after the taxidermist skins the head. Indiana DNR will provide the hunter with an ear tag for the deer that marks the deer for testing and gives instructions for the taxidermist to save the head. DNR will work with taxidermists to arrange to collect deer heads marked for testing after the heads have been processed.

Human health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “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.”

The CDC further states that “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.”

Testing is not required in Indiana at this time, but in areas where CWD is known to be present, the CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having deer and elk tested before eating the meat. The CDC recommends that you do not eat meat from an animal that tests positive for CWD.

For more information about precautions you can take to decrease the risk of exposure to CWD visit the CDC webpage at www.cdc.gov/prions/cwd/prevention.html.

For questions related to human health, you may also contact the Indiana State Department of Health at (317) 233-1325.

More information

If you have any questions regarding CWD or other diseases in wild deer, contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish & Wildlife at (812) 334-3795.

FAQ's about CWD

  • What are the signs of CWD?

    An animal infected with CWD may not show signs until the later stages of the disease but can be infectious to other cervids before it appears sick. Deer showing advanced clinical signs of CWD appear emaciated, exhibit abnormal behavior such as staggering or standing with poor posture, salivate excessively, or carry their head and ears lower than normal.

  • Why is DNR testing for CWD?

    CWD positive wild deer have been found approximately 25 miles from the Indiana border in northeast Illinois, and DNR is testing Indiana’s deer as a precautionary measure. To date, CWD has not been found in Indiana.

  • How are deer tested for CWD?

    The retropharyngeal lymph nodes, located near the windpipe, are removed from the neck and sent to Purdue’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab for testing where they will be examined microscopically for evidence of CWD.

  • Will I be notified of my deer’s CWD test results?

    Yes. Hunters can view their test results by clicking on the link “View CWD test results here” at the top of this webpage. The hunter’s phone number or the deer’s confirmation number is needed to check results. Final test results may take eight to 12 weeks to appear online. If a deer tests positive for CWD, DNR will notify the hunter directly using the contact information provided.

  • Where can hunters have deer tested?

    Biologists will manage deer check stations during peak periods of the firearms deer hunting season. They will ask hunters to voluntarily donate samples of deer for testing. Biologists won’t be able to sample every deer. They will be actively seeking deer from counties in northwest Indiana and at scattered other locations across the state to get a statistically accurate sample.

  • Am I required to turn over a sample of my deer?

    No. Participation in the CWD monitoring program is optional.

  • How can I tell if the deer I harvested has CWD?

    There is no way to tell if a deer is infected with CWD by appearance. DNR officials recommend that hunters not process or consume any deer that is obviously ill or emaciated.