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Chronic Wasting Disease

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Advice to Hunters and Rules Concerning Chronic Wasting Disease

What is CWD?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a naturally occurring disease of the brain and nervous system in deer, elk, and moose. CWD belongs to the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) that attacks the brain of deer and elk, producing small lesions on the brain that eventually result in death. The body condition of animals that contract CWD tends to deteriorate before death. There currently is no treatment for deer that contract CWD and it is invariably fatal to the animal. No cases of human infection have been associated with CWD. Since 2002, the Division has collected 6,549 CWD samples from deer harvested in Delaware and none have been positive for the disease (results from the samples collected during the 2014/15) season were still pending at the time this publication was printed).

Additional information on CWD can be found at the CWD Alliance website and on the Delaware F&W website

Best Management Practices

It is far easier and less expensive to implement precautions that minimize the risk of CWD infecting the Delaware deer population than it is to manage the disease once it is detected. There are several things that individual hunters can do to minimize the chance of CWD spreading to our state. Delaware law restricts bringing certain portions of deer, elk, or moose from areas that have found CWD but hunters are recommended to take the following precautions in case they are hunting in areas where the disease is present but not yet found (this includes deer harvested in Delaware). The parts that remain after processing a deer for consumption are considered household waste and hunters should dispose of the skeleton, hide, and scraps in a sealed trash bag and place it with the rest of their household waste for transport to a landfill. Do not dump your butchering scraps on the ground as wild deer in Delaware could come in contact with these parts and if the animal that was processed had CWD, the wild deer could become infected after coming into contact with the scraps you put out on the ground. Additionally, deer disposed along roads or on State Wildlife Areas are an eye sore to the general public and do not shed a positive light on hunters and hunting, as it gives hunters a slob like persona. Furthermore, the animals that scavenge on the meat left on the carcasses that have been disposed of along roadways may be struck by cars.

The biological material responsible for infecting deer with CWD can be spread through urine, among other materials. Many hunters use natural deer urine as an attractant while deer hunting. If used improperly, hunters could unknowingly be infecting the areas they hunt with CWD. Currently, there is not a practical test to determine if deer urine has the material responsible for spreading CWD so hunters should utilize Best Management Practices that minimize the chance of spreading the disease if they choose to use deer urine. Short of not using deer urine while hunting, hunters should take the following precautions to minimize the chance that deer will come in contact with these products. Use attractants that do not contain natural deer urine as an ingredient or use synthetically produced products as a replacement. Do not pour natural deer urine on the ground or in a place where a deer could come in contact with the product. This includes not using aerosol based scent deployment canisters that spray natural deer urine into the air, drippers that periodically drip urine onto the ground, or other similar systems. A better approach when using natural deer urine as an attractant would involve saturating a scent wick, cotton ball, or other material with the urine and then hanging the item on a branch high enough that it is out of reach of a passing deer. At the end of each hunt, remove your scent station from the field. A reusable, plastic, zipper storage bag makes a great storage container for your lure between hunts. If using natural deer urine while hunting, anything you can do to prevent deer from physically coming in contact with the product will minimize the risk of spreading CWD. The safest approach is to use attractants that do not contain natural deer urine as an ingredient.

Delaware Laws Concerning CWD

Transporting Harvested Deer into Delaware

Delaware has two primary laws in place to help prevent Delaware from becoming a state with CWD. If you are a hunter that plans to hunt in a state that has found CWD there are certain rules you need to adhere to regarding bringing your harvest back to Delaware. Currently 21 states and 2 Canadian provinces have detected CWD. The Division maintains a list of locations in which hunters are not allowed to bring portions of deer, elk, or moose, which are at high risk of having CWD infected tissues present back into Delaware. REMINDER: If you hunt deer, elk, moose or other cervids in other states and/or provinces, particularly those in which CWD has been detected, check with the respective fish and wildlife agencies regarding special regulations or specific advice for hunters as they may be more restrictive than Delaware’s laws. The list of restricted states is available on our website ( or can be obtained by calling the Division at, (302) 735-3600.

It shall be unlawful to import or possess any carcass or parts of a carcass of any member of the family Cervidae (deer, elk or moose) originating from an entire state or Canadian province or portion thereof, as described by the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife in which Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in free-ranging or captive deer. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the following parts may be imported into the state:

  • Boned-out meat that is cut and wrapped;
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or skull attached;
  • Hides or capes with no skull attached;
  • Clean (no meat or tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached;
  • Antlers (with no meat or tissue attached);
  • Upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers, or ivories); and finished taxidermy products.

The states locally that have found CWD which Delaware hunters are most likely to travel to are: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. From these states, hunters are restricted from bringing entire deer carcasses and may only bring the above mentioned parts from the locations listed below. If hunters are hunting in portions of these states outside of those areas, they are not restricted from bringing their harvest back to Delaware.

  • Maryland – Allegany County
  • Pennsylvania – Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Jefferson, Huntingdon, and York Counties
  • Virginia – Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren Counties
  • West Virginia – Hampshire, Hardy, and Morgan Counties

For a complete list of restricted areas within other states please visit the website above or contact the Division.

Positive Test Notification

Any person who imports into Delaware any deer carcass or parts of a deer carcass (e.g. antlers, meat, hide, etc…) that was tested for CWD by a state other than Delaware and is notified that the animal has tested positive for CWD must report the test results to the department within 72 hours of receiving the notification by calling (302) 735-3600. In order to facilitate the proper disposal of any infected material, the department may take into possession any imported carcass or carcass part of an animal if the animal has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

Precautions Hunters Should Take

Concerns over CWD shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the hunting season as CWD has not been found in Delaware and has not been shown to be transmissible to humans. However, hunters field-dressing or butchering deer should take the same precautions as they might to protect against other pathogens or diseases. The following common-sense precautionary measures are recommended for the safe handling, field-dressing and home processing of venison:

  • Avoid shooting or handling a deer that appears sick.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing and/or butchering deer.
  • Do not use household knives or utensils.
  • Remove all internal organs.
  • Avoid cutting through bones or the spinal column (backbone).
  • Bone the deer (remove the meat from the bones and spinal column).
  • If you saw off antlers or through a bone, or if you sever the spinal column with a knife, be sure to disinfect these tools prior to using them for the butchering or removal of meat.
  • Remove all fat, membranes and connective tissue from the meat. Note that normal field-dressing and trimming of fat from meat will remove lymph nodes.
  • Never eat a deer’s brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen, or lymph nodes.
  • Always wash hands and instruments thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.
  • Use a 50/50 solution of household chlorine bleach and water to disinfect tools and work surfaces. Wipe down counters and let them dry; soak knives for one hour.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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