Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease affecting white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. It is a member of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), or prion diseases. Other similar prion diseases in this group include mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep. CWD is spread through bodily fluids like feces, saliva, blood, or urine and is transmitted through direct contact or indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, plants, food, or water.
Although CWD is associated with captive deer and elk, it is also found in free-ranging white-tailed deer in several Midwestern states close to Indiana, including Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Indiana DNR staff collect tissue samples from wild deer year-round (hunter-harvested or reported sick/dead) to monitor the presence of CWD in Indiana. CWD has not been detected in deer tested from Indiana as of 2022.
Learn more about Indiana’s CWD surveillance history in the annual Indiana White-tailed Deer Report.
2023-2024 CWD Surveillance
Hunters may drop off deer heads for testing at participating Fish & Wildlife areas (FWA) or state fish hatcheries (SFH) throughout the deer hunting season. For a complete list of locations and hours of operation, please view the interactive map and list of properties below. If you make an appointment during normal business hours, a biologist may collect the sample while you wait.
Test results will be posted online for individual hunters to access when laboratory tests are complete. The DNR requests voluntary assistance from hunters in this effort. Participants will receive a metal tag reminiscent of historic confirmation tags as tokens of appreciation.
No fee will be charged for CWD testing of deer through this program.
DNR will contact processors and taxidermists to determine if they would be interested in participating in this CWD sampling effort. If your business would like to partner with DNR to collect CWD samples, please call 317-473-6693.
Taxidermist Incentive Program
The Indiana DNR and the National Deer Association have started a program to collect samples for CWD testing with the help of taxidermists. In 2023-2024 hunting season, taxidermists from select areas will be asked to participate based on available funding and coverage.
Participating taxidermists will collect the two retropharyngeal lymph nodes, which are found in the neck of white-tailed deer and provide the approximate age of the deer. The DNR will pay taxidermists $10 for each viable sample they collect. DNR will provide sampling supplies and training to all participating taxidermists. Taxidermists will use a provided sample datasheet with corresponding barcoded stickers to record the information that needs to be collected from the hunter.
Hunters will be able to look up the results of their deer’s CWD test online three to four weeks after the samples are picked up. Hunters will also be sent a letter with their deer’s results and a metal commemoration band as a thank you for participating.
For the 2023-24 deer season, DNR has met its goal of taxidermists participating this season. If you would like to participate in the future or be put on a waitlist, contact a DNR wildlife health biologist.
Out-of-state deer hunters should follow carcass transportation regulations for their home state as well as carcass transportation regulations for the state in which they are hunting.
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.
For questions related to human health, you may also contact the Indiana State Department of Health at 317-233-1325.
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 844-803-0002 or a DNR Fish & Wildlife health biologist in your region.
You can also find up to date CWD news on the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website.
- What are the signs of CWD?
An animal infected with CWD may not show signs of infection until the later stages of the disease but they 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 near Indiana borders in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Indiana DNR is testing Indiana’s deer as a precautionary measure. As of 2022, 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 for testing to an approved diagnostic lab. Here, they will be examined for evidence of CWD.
- Will I be notified of my 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 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 during sample collection.
- Where can hunters have deer tested?
People can bring deer to a Fish & Wildlife area or state fish hatchery by appointment to have their deer sampled during the hunting season, or hunters can drop off the deer head in a cooler outside the property office. View an interactive map of all CWD sampling locations.
- Am I required to turn over a sample of my deer?
No. Participation in the Indiana CWD monitoring program is voluntary.
- How can I tell if the deer I harvested has CWD?
There is no way to reliably tell if a deer is infected with CWD without laboratory testing. DNR officials recommend that hunters not process or consume any deer that is obviously ill or emaciated.
- Are there other options to get deer tested for CWD?
People who would like to have their deer sampled for CWD but do not wish to visit a fish & wildlife area or state fish hatchery may submit samples directly to the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) at Purdue University for a fee. More information and submission forms are available on the ADDL website.