Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a rare, fatal, neurological disease found in cervids, members of the deer family. It is a transmissible disease that slowly attacks
the brain of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to progressively become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and invariably results in the death of the
infected animal. It has been known to occur in wild elk and deer populations in parts of some western states for decades and was recently documented in wild
moose as well. The disease has also been confirmed in captive deer and elk herds in several western states and Canadian Provinces. Its discovery in wild deer in
south-central Wisconsin in 2002 has generated unprecedented attention from wildlife managers, hunters, and others interested in deer. CWD poses a significant
threat to the deer and elk of North America and, if unchecked, could dramatically alter the future management of wild deer and elk.
CWD is one of a group of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) that include scrapie in sheep and goats, transmissible mink encephalopathy of
ranched mink, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as "mad cow disease", in cattle. TSE's are thought to be caused by abnormal, proteinaceous,
infectious particles called prions (pree-ons). CWD occurs naturally only in mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose and Rocky Mountain Elk and very likely other
subspecies of elk. The mode of transmission of CWD has not yet been fully identified and research is ongoing to explore possibilities of transmission of CWD to
other species. However, evidence has shown that the disease can pass from cervid to cervid by direct contact through saliva, urine, and feces, and by indirect
contact through environmental contamination with infective substances. There is no known treatment for CWD and it is always fatal. Currently there is no evidence
that CWD poses a risk for humans or domestic animals.
The state Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Agriculture and Markets (DAM), and Health (DOH), together with the United States Department of
Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) are cooperating to develop a comprehensive statewide response to the threat of CWD.
Together we are actively participating with other agencies and organizations in nationwide efforts to learn more about this disease and to prevent its spread. New
York has a vigilant wildlife disease monitoring program in place, comprised of three main components. The first is a regulatory component designed to reduce the
risk of bringing the disease into NY from other parts of the country and minimizing its spread if it is brought here. The second part is an ongoing field surveillance
program to ensure the early detection of CWD and the third part is an agency response plan in the event that CWD is found. Through these active surveillance
programs the cooperating state agencies first detected and verified positive cases of CWD in two captive deer herds in March 2005. A response plan was then
initiated to remove future threats for these captive herds and implement a sampling strategy to determine if CWD had spread into wild New York deer herds.
Regulatory Action - When the potential CWD threat was identified in 2002, New York responded quickly with regulations restricting various activities that could
introduce or spread CWD within the state. These regulations allowed DEC time to gather information about CWD, the impacts that various restrictions would have
on constituents, and the level of protection they provided. The CWD regulation, which is part of DEC's comprehensive disease management effort, went into effect
July 30, 2003. This regulation was later amended on July 14, 2004 to be consistent with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets regulations
establishing a herd health certification program that covered all captive cervid herds in New York. The DEC CWD regulation includes:
* A Restriction on Importation of live Deer, Elk and Moose
The regulation prohibits the importation into New York State any wild or captive deer, elk or moose except under permit issued by the New York
State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
* A Restriction on Importation and Possession of Certain Animal Parts and Carcasses
New York is also restricting the importation of deer, elk and moose carcasses and parts from western states and provinces, and from any captive
herds, as a further preventative measure to ensure that infectious prions are not brought into the state. The regulation imposes a restriction on
the importation and possession of high risks tissues where CWD has been shown to be concentrated including the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph
nodes, tonsils or spleen. For an explanation of what is allowed see CWD Regulations for Hunters.
* A Restriction on the Liberation of Wild or Captive Deer, Elk and Moose
The regulation imposes a restriction on the liberation of the specified species of deer, elk and moose. An exception is made for wild white-tailed
deer temporarily held under department license such as those under the care of a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator.
* Reporting Requirements for Taxidermists that handle Deer, Elk or Moose
The regulation requires taxidermists to maintain and keep in their place of taxidermy, a log of all deer, elk, and moose specimens processed in
the current year and previous two years.
* A Restriction on Deer and Moose Feeding
The regulation also prohibits feeding of wild deer and wild moose under most circumstances as a further protective measure. This prohibition includes the use of
substances that serve as an edible attractant, such as powdered or crystallized minerals. This regulation does not restrict the planting of food plots for wildlife or
cutting browse for deer in the winter.
Field Surveillance - Annually, thousands of wildlife specimens are examined to monitor the presence and distribution of various wildlife diseases. Following the
discovery of CWD in Wisconsin, the Department implemented a statewide surveillance program in April 2002 to test wild white-tailed deer for the presence of CWD.
This ongoing program uses a statistically valid sampling scheme based on New York's wild white-tailed deer population density to determine the appropriate
number of samples needed throughout the State. Samples are collected and sent to an approved USDA laboratory for analysis.
More about Chronic Wasting Disease:
* Status of Chronic Wasting Disease in NY - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has received confirmation of Chronic Wasting Disease
(CWD) from two wild white-tailed deer sampled in central New York.
* Chronic Wasting Disease Q&A - Responses to frequently asked questions about CWD.