Chronic Wasting Disease is often misunderstood and underappreciated by hunters. In part, this is due to the fact that studying the disease is relatively new there are numerous unknowns associated with its spread and distribution. That said, hunters must play their part in minimizing the spread of CWD by following carcass transport laws and general carcass transport guidelines.
CWD is a protein based neurological disorder that is prevalent in deer, elk and can even transmit to moose. It does not spread like a viral or bacterial infection and no antibiotics or treatments are effective. The deviant protein also takes years of accumulation in the brain before the animal shows any visible signs of infection.
This means a perfectly normal acting deer could potentially be infected with CWD. While hunters harvesting animals in known CWD areas should have their animals tested prior to consumption, the immediate steps of dressing and moving the animal are equally important for isolating the animal parts capable of carrying CWD to new areas. This means taking precautions when crossing state lines and even county lines in some cases.
How CWD Spreads
The tricky part about isolating and preventing the spread of CWD is that it transmitted primarily through saliva, urine and fecal matter. These bodily fluids are easily transmitted and the disease can live in the environment for up to 15 years. In migratory populations like those in Colorado and Wyoming, CWD has been endemic since the 1950’s. It doesn’t just die off or go away. That means any animal that is a potential carrier must be dealt with in a manner that isolates their bodily fluids to the environment in which they are harvested.
This means hunters must process the animal in the field to separate the meat from the spinal column and the head. You can quarter out the animal if desired but avoid severing the spinal cord. Removing the head and spinal column is the most critical aspect of isolating the CWD carrying components of the deer. In the case of a buck where you want to keep the antlers, sawing off the skull cap or pulling the top section of jaw free to separate it from the skull, brain, spine and tongue is necessary. Ideally, you will bone out the meat while wearing latex gloves and avoiding contact with the brain, spinal cord and lymph nodes. Separate the meat and avoid consuming any animal that tests positive for CWD.
Transport Laws and Hunter Resources
Almost every state has specific laws regarding the transport of carcasses. The information is arguably under-distributed and many hunters are unaware these laws even exist. To review the laws in your state or research for a hunt that will pull you across state lines, visit the CWD Alliance website to learn about the specific laws in your state and the states you will pass through on your next hunt. They simple guidelines to prevent spreading CWD along with the carcass transport info for each state.