Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a term many sportsman know all too well. It is an always-fatal prion disease that affects cervids such as white-tailed deer. The disease affects the brain, spinal cord and other tissues. It can be present in an animal for up to 18 months before signs of the disease show. Deer exhibiting signs of CWD will seem seek, be seen drooling, may seem clumsy, have little fear of humans, and will often be found near water, as the disease increases thirst. At this time there is little evidence the disease can “jump” to humans, or mutate in a way that it would affect humans. However, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a related prion disease known to affect humans. Because little is known about how or if this disease can affect humans, it is recommended people do not eat meat from infected animals.
CWD was first found in the state in 2002. Since that time it has made its way from the endemic area in southwestern Wisconsin across the state, being found in the Northwoods in the last several years. The prions that are known to cause CWD can persist in the environment for decades. They can be taken up by plants and spread through the environment to other deer that may browse on those plants. In an attempt to limit the spread of the disease in this fashion, the state has placed restrictions on deer carcass movement in CWD-affected counties.
Hunters should be aware of carcass movement restrictions in all areas that are listed as CWD-affected, including counties in the Northwoods. In order to transport a deer carcass beyond the county of harvest or an adjacent county, the carcass must be brought to a licensed taxidermist within 72 hours of harvest. In all other cases, only certain portions of the deer may be transported outside of the county of harvest or an adjacent county. Those portions are as follows:
• Meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately).
• Quarters or other portions of meat to which no part of the spinal column is attached.
• Meat that has been deboned.
• Hides with no heads attached.
• Finished taxidermy heads.
• Antlers with no tissue attached.
• Clean skull plates with no lymphoid or brain tissue attached.
• Clean skulls with no lymphoid or brain tissue attached.
• Upper canine teeth (also known as buglers, whistlers or ivories).
For more information on carcass movement restrictions, as well as information regarding importing carcasses from neighboring states, see the DNR website dnr.wi.gov and input “Deer carcass movement” into the search bar.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected].