About Chronic Wasting Disease

What is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)?

CWD is a fatal neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in cervids - deer, elk, and moose. The disease attacks the brains of infected animals and produces small lesions that result in death. There is no cure. Once an animal is infected, it will die.


What should I do if I find a dead deer?

Contact your local DNR Wildlife Office to report it.


Where has CWD been found?

Michigan:  Since May 2015 when the first CWD deer was found, CWD has been confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer from Clinton, Ionia, Ingham, Kent, and Montcalm counties. CWD was also found in January 2017 in two captive deer in a deer farm facility in Mecosta County. In addition, CWD was confirmed in August 2008 at a Kent County deer farm facility.

For the latest testing numbers, and a listing of counties and townships where CWD has been found in free-ranging deer, please see the CWD Testing Status Update

Nationally: In North America, a total of 24 states and two Canadian provinces have found CWD in either free-ranging or captive cervids, or both. View the USGS map for locations of CWD in North America.


How can you tell if a deer has CWD?

Infected animals may not show any symptoms of the disease for a long period of time, even years. In the later stages of the disease, infected animals begin to lose bodily functions and display abnormal behavior such as staggering. Animals may have an exaggerated wide posture or may carry the head and ears lowered. Drooling or excessive salivation may be apparent. Note that these symptoms may also be characteristics of diseases other than CWD.


How does an animal become infected with CWD?

The disease may be transmitted both directly through animal-to-animal contact as well as indirectly through a contaminated environment. Previous studies have shown that CWD prions exist in the saliva, urine, blood, and feces of infected deer, and can remain indefinitely in certain types of soil.


How do I dispose of a deer harvested in areas known to have CWD-positive deer?

Hunters processing deer harvested in a CWD Management Area should dispose of the leftover parts in their garbage or landfill. Leftover parts from an infected deer, especially heads and backbones, contain CWD prions. If discarded on the landscape, those prions can persist for decades.


Does CWD pose a health risk to humans?

There have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, preliminary and ongoing research suggests that some primates may be susceptible to the disease. As a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that CWD positive animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.