Help Prevent Chronic Wasting Disease from Reaching California

Hunting Regulations Icon California Hunting

Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CDW) is a fatal neurologic disease of deer, elk, and moose. It is caused by a misfolded protein termed a prion and has been detected in 24 states and two Canadian provinces.

Meat from CWD infected animals should not be eaten. The disease’s range continues to slowly expand. Hunter help is needed to stop it from reaching California.

Deer And Hunter Impacts

A high prevalence of CWD can reduce populations and potentially decrease long-term herd viability. As CWD prevalence increases in an area, the number of hunters seeking tags decreases. This can impact herds by decreasing populations and indirectly through lost funding for wildlife management.

More CWD Information

Hunting Out Of State

It is the responsibility of out-of-state hunters to be aware of all laws and regulations pertaining to the state in which they are going to hunt. Proof of hunter education is required. Take note that the California equivalency certificate will not be accepted as evidence of hunter education.

Follow Other States’ Regulations For CWD

If you will be hunting out of state in a known CWD endemic area, you should receive information at the time you receive your hunting tag(s) regarding disposal of the carcass remains and mandatory or voluntary CWD testing. It is CDFW’s recommendation that any deer or elk harvested in a known CWD area be tested for CWD and receive a negative or not detected result prior to consuming.

No Skull, No Backbone

You will be checked at the California border when returning and only the following body parts are allowed into California:

  • Boned-out meat and commercially processed cuts of meat,
  • Portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached,
  • Hides with no heads attached,
  • Clean skull plates (no meat or tissue attached) with antlers attached,
  • Antlers with no meat or tissue attached,
  • Finished taxidermy heads,
  • Upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers, ivories).

California Code of Regulations, Title 14, § 712 can be summarized in one phrase: “NO SKULL, NO BACKBONE.”

Disposal Of Meat From CWD-Positive Animals

If you are notified that your out-of-state animal tested positive for CWD, contact your regional CDFW office (see Regional Offices) or the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory at (916) 358-2790 for information. DO NOT DISCARD, only certain disposal methods are appropriate for CWD. CDFW will facilitate incinerating or otherwise properly disposing of any meat or tissues

What Is California Doing

Regulatory actions that protect California:

  • Importation of captive cervids is tightly regulated and highly restricted.
  • Import restrictions on hunter-harvested deer and elk carcasses and parts — “NO SKULL, NO BACKBONE.”
  • Bans on baiting and feeding of big game.

Increased Surveillance

Since 1999, California has tested approximately 4,500 deer and elk for CWD. To date, no CWD has been found in California deer or elk. However, the potential for CWD to spread to California’s deer and elk populations still exists and surveillance for the disease remains important. CDFW will be increasing CWD surveillance efforts throughout the state over the next few years. Hunters are a vital partner in these surveillance efforts and voluntary CWD check stations will be set-up to facilitate surveillance throughout the state. For additional information on surveillance in California visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Laboratories/Wildlife-Investigations/Monitoring/CWD or contact The Wildlife Investigations Laboratory at 916-358-2790 or WILab@wildlife.ca.gov.

Handle Game With Caution

Whenever hunting, basic safety and hygiene precautions should be taken to protect yourself from injury or exposure to disease when handling wildlife. Minimize the chance of exposure to or spread of CWD by:

  • Wear rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses;
  • Bone out meat from the animal;
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal cord, eyes, spleen, and lymph nodes and avoid consuming these tissues;
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.

Lacey Act

Transporting illegally taken game across state lines is a violation of the federal Lacey Act (T16, US Code 1406). Such transport, if done in connection with commercial activity, may be classified as a felony.