Chronic Wasting Disease
And Helping to Prevent its Spread
By NDOW Veterinarian Dr. Peregrine “Peri” L. Wolff, DVM and NDOW Game Division Administrator Brian Wakeling
Nevada is C.W.D. Free– Let’s Keep it that Way!
Currently found in 25 states and three Canadian provinces, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that effects deer, elk and moose. The infectious agent is a misfolded protein, called a prion, that causes a spongy deterioration in the brain. Affected animals eventually can no longer eat or function normally and commonly succumb to pneumonia and other infections. Infected animals can spread CWD for years before they show symptoms. The disease is 100% fatal and currently there is no treatment or preventative vaccine. Adult animals tend to have a higher rate of infection, especially adult bucks and bulls. This disease can affect herd health and population size.
Beginning in 1998, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has conducted annual surveillance for CWD. To date, CWD has not been detected in Nevada, however, cases have been identified in eastern and central Utah. Nevada and Utah share migratory deer and elk herds; for these reasons, NDOW focuses annual surveillance efforts primarily in the eastern half of the state. Surveillance consists of collecting the brain stem and adjacent lymph nodes from hunter harvested adult deer and elk. We also collect samples from animals killed on the road or sick animals displaying symptoms consistent with CWD infection.
Over the past 20 years, deer and elk hunters have played a key role in our ability to test for CWD. Historically NDOW has used “biological check stations” set up on frequently travelled roads as an efficient method to collect samples from hunters. In 2018, we reinstated this practice where hunters can voluntarily stop and have their harvested animals sampled. Stations were set up on key hunting weekends in the Wells and Ely areas and allowed us to efficiently collect the samples needed. Heads for testing will also be accepted at regional NDOW offices and you may request that your taxidermist save the head from your mount for CWD testing.
What’s with the CWD Check Stations?
- We’re looking for biological samples only
- We collect the sample without damaging a cape
- It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to collect the sample
- It’s a great opportunity to share your hunt experience and talk with our biologists
- You may contact an NDOW office to coordinate a sample collection
- Your taxidermist can facilitate sample collection
Methods to Prevent the Spread of CWD to Nevada if you Harvest an Animal in Another State
- State law (2019 SB85) now requires that when you harvest an animal from another state, you bring only processed or boned out meat (except for bones of the shoulder or the leg) back with you, and have skulls or the skull plate cleaned and free of any brain material before you return to Nevada.
- In some instances, other states require testing and you may be informed that you have harvested a CWD positive animal. If you are notified and choose to dispose of the meat, please call (775) 688-1529 for disposal methods and locations. Do not discard on the landscape because you might inadvertently introduce CWD in Nevada.
To learn more about chronic wasting disease go to the Nevada Department of Wildlife website www.ndow.org or the CWD Alliance http://cwd-info.org.