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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)



Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of infected cervids (deer, elk and moose) eventually resulting in death.

Current Status:
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in three locations in Pennsylvania: a captive deer farm in Adams County (fall 2012); free-ranging deer in Blair and Bedford counties (2012 firearms season); and a captive deer farm in Jefferson county (spring 2014). Following the detection of CWD in both captive and free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania, an executive order was issued by the Game Commission to establish Disease Management Areas (DMAs). Within DMAs, rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; the removal of high-risk cervid parts; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids are prohibited. Increased testing continues in these areas to determine the distribution of the disease. Newly confirmed cases will alter the boundaries of DMAs as the Game Commission continues to manage the disease and minimize its affect on free ranging cervids.

Frequently Asked Questions:

To learn more about chronic wasting disease, and precautions in place to limit its influence on Pennsylvania's wild deer populations, please explore the following:

For Hunters
Map of Approved Processors, Taxidermists and Disposal Sites
DMA1 Approved Processors, Taxidermists and Disposal Sites
DMA2 Approved Processors, Taxidermists and Disposal Sites
DMA3 Approved Processors, Taxidermists and Disposal Sites
What precautions should hunters take?
Where can I have my deer tested?
Is the meat of a CWD positive deer safe to eat?
What if I harvest a deer with evidence of being ear tagged?
What if I hunt in an area affected by CWD?
What if I'm hunting outside Pennsylvania?
DMA2 Antlerless Permit for Disease Management Area 2 and associated CWD DMA 2 Antlerless Deer Permit Executive Order
Simple Precautions When Pursing or Handling Deer & Elk (CWDA*)
Field Dressing, Boning and Home Processing: VIDEOS (CWDA*)
Hunting & Trapping Digest CWD pages, 37-39
PA Animal Diagnostics Laboratory FAQs - questions and answers about having your deer tested

For Taxidermists & Processors
If you are presented with a deer or elk harvested in CWD-infected areas, please contact the nearest Game Commission region office for guidance. A Game Commission representative may collect tissues, provide proper processing and disposal procedures, and supply information to educate hunters. Additional information is available for processors and taxidermists.

What is CWD?
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers can be found further down the page.
Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania brochure  (.pdf)
Shedding Light on chronic wasting disease: VIDEO (CWDA*)

CWD in Pennsylvania
Cervid Parts Importation Ban
CWD Executive Order
Map of Approved Processors, Taxidermists and Disposal Sites
Map of Disease Management Area 1 (DMA 1) in Adams and York counties
Map of Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2) in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties
Map of Disease Management Area 3 (DMA 3) in Clearfield and Jefferson counties
Pennsylvania CWD Response Plan

*Resources:
Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance (CWDA)
Captive Cervid Breeding Fact Sheet (The Wildlife Society)
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) CWD webpage


It is unlawful to remove deer from any DMA unless it is being taken to an approved location. Businesses listed here that are outside DMA 1 have been approved to receive deer carcasses from within DMA 1.

Cooperating Processors in DMA 1

Cooperating Taxidermists in DMA 1

High-Risk Parts Disposal Site in DMA 1

  • Adams County - State Game Lands 249; 1070 Lake Meade Rd, East Berlin, PA 17316 From SR94 take Lake Meade Road 0.3 miles East to Food and Cover building. (39.970523, -77.072803)
  • York County - York County - State Game Lands 242; 85 Game Rd, Dillsburg, PA 17019 From Old York Road take Game Road 0.25 miles North to Food and Cover building. (40.094672, -76.953295)

It is unlawful to remove deer from any DMA unless it is being taken to an approved location. Businesses listed here that are outside DMA 2 have been approved to receive deer carcasses from within DMA 2.

Cooperating Processors in DMA 2
Cooperating Taxidermists in DMA 2
High-Risk Parts Disposal Sites in DMA 2
  • Cambria County, Summerhill Township - State Game Lands 26. Travel 5.2 miles west of Pavia on SR869. Parking lot is on right at top of mountain. (40.298984, -78.641298)
  • Bedford County, South Woodbury Township, 372 Replogle School Rd, New Enterprise, PA 16664 - State Game Lands 41. From SR869 take Replogle School Road 0.5 miles north to Food and Cover building. (40.177643, -78.407100)
  • Bedford County, Harrison Township - State Game Lands 48. Travel 3.8 Miles Northeast of SR96 on Milligans Cove Road. (39.901483, -78.643380)
  • Blair County, Huston Township, 128 Seldom Seen Rd, Martinsburg, PA 16662 - State Game Lands 147. From SR164, travel 1.1 miles North of SR164 on Seldom Seen Road. (40.332114, -78.336210)
  • Somerset County, Callimont Township - State Game Lands 82. From SR164, travel 10 miles South of Berlin on SR160. (39.788938, -78.933513)
  • Bedford County, Southampton Township, 3600 Black Valley Rd., Everett, PA 15537 - State Game Lands 97. From Chaneysville take SR326 West 2.7 miles to Black Valley Road. Dumpster is on left near intersection. (39.857959, -78.499740)
  • Huntingdon County, Todd Township - State Game Lands 121. From Coles Valley Road intersection, take SR994 1.0 miles east; parking lot on left. (40.203626, -78.066267)
  • Fulton County, Union Township, 941 Deneens Gap Rd., Warfordsburg, PA 17267 -State Game Lands 128. From I-70 take exit 163, 0.25 miles East on Deneens Gap Road; parking lot on left. (39.799189, -78.241405)
  • Blair County, Allegheny Township - State Game Lands 198. From Old US 22, travel Healy Road 0.7 miles to parking area. (40.459951, -78.536500)
  • Somerset County, Shade Township - State Game Lands 228. From Central City, take Main Street East to Shaffer Mountain Road, then to Lambert Mountain Road to parking lot on right. (40.095826, -78.757172)
  • Huntingdon County, Smithfield Township - 8627 William Penn Hwy, Huntingdon, PA 16652 - Southcentral Region Game Commission office. From intersection of SR26 take US 22 West. Dumpster is located between Penn Dot and Region Office on right. (40.494621, -78.043946)
  • Bedford County Napier Township, - Burgmeiers Hauling, (M-F 8a-4p), 6175 Lincoln Hwy, Bedford, PA 15522. Travel 0.35 miles West of SR56 intersection with US 30. (40.045084, -78.556050)
  • Fulton County, Brush Creek Township - Buchanan State Forest. Travel 1.5 miles North of US30 on North Valley Road. (40.033579, -78.150320)

It is unlawful to remove deer from any DMA unless it is being taken to an approved location. Businesses listed here that are outside the DMA 3 have been approved to receive deer carcasses from within the DMA 3.

Cooperating Processors in DMA 3
Cooperating Taxidermists in DMA 3
High-Risk Parts Disposal Site in DMA 3
  • Clearfield County - 3906 Shamokin Trail, Luthersburg 15848 From US219/US322, take SR410 southwest 0.2 miles to dumpster on left. (41.05076N/78.72266W)
  • Jefferson County - Take Exit 86 off of I-80. Travel south on SR1830 approximately 0.8 miles, cross US322 and continue south approximately 2.1 miles. Just prior to the bridge that crosses Sandy Lick Creek turn left on gravel road (there will be a sign posted here to indicate the DMA3 CWD dumpster location w/directional arrow). Travel 0.4 miles to the dumpster location at the public parking area. (41.092193, -78.979092)

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a member of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) family of diseases that includes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease in cattle; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans; and Scrapie in sheep and goats. It was first recognized in Colorado deer and elk in 1967. The specific cause of CWD is believed to be an abnormal prion (protein infectious particle) that is found in the brain, the nervous system, and some lymphoid tissues of infected animals. It causes death of brain cells and, on a microscopic level, holes in the brain tissue.

What animals get CWD?
CWD has been diagnosed in white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer and hybrids thereof, as well as elk, red deer, and moose. There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or traditional livestock. However, it is recommended that meat from CWD-positive animals not be consumed.

Is CWD dangerous to humans?
There is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or traditional livestock. However, it is recommended that meat from CWD-positive animals not be consumed.

Where has CWD been found?
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in three locations in Pennsylvania: a captive deer farm in Adams County (fall 2012); free-ranging deer in Blair and Bedford counties (2012 - 2014 firearms season ); and a captive deer farm in Jefferson county (spring 2014). In addition, CWD has been in wild or captive deer and/or elk in many other states and provinces.

How is CWD spread?
CWD is transmitted both directly through animal-to-animal contact and indirectly through food and soil contaminated with bodily excretions including feces, urine and saliva. Contaminated carcasses or high-risk carcass parts may also spread the disease indirectly through environmental contamination, which last for decades.

Why should I stop feeding deer?
Because any concentration of deer or elk assists in the spread of diseases, immediately stop supplemental feeding programs. For more information, read Please Don't Feed the Deer. (.pdf)

What is being done to manage CWD in Pennsylvania?
Several state and federal agencies, including the Game Commission, Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture (PDA), Health (PDH), and Environmental Protection (DEP), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) completed a response plan which details methods of prevention, surveillance and response designed to manage CWD. Activities designed to reduce the risks associated with this disease are ongoing. Surveillance for CWD and other diseases has been ongoing in Pennsylvania since 1998 and will continue in order to understand the prevalence and distribution of the disease.

How can I tell if a deer or elk has CWD?
Animals infected with CWD do not show signs of infection for 12 or more months. Late stage symptoms of CWD-infected animals include an extreme loss of body condition; excessive drinking, urination, salivation and drooling; and behavioral and neurologic changes such as repetitive walking patterns, droopy ears, a wide-based stance and listlessness. Some animals lose their fear of humans and predators. There is no known cure. It is important to note that these symptoms are characteristic of diseases other than CWD.

What should I do if I see a deer or elk displaying signs that suggest CWD?
If you see a deer or elk that you believe is sick, do not disturb or attempt to kill or remove the animal. Accurately document the location of the animal and immediately contact the nearest Game Commission region office.

What are high-risk carcass parts?
High-risk carcass parts, where the CWD prion (causative agent) concentrates are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and all lymph nodes); spinal cord; spleen; upper canine teeth, if root structure is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; unfinished taxidermy mounts or brain-tanned hides.

Why are there restrictions on the movement of high-risk parts?
Although CWD has been detected in both captive and free ranging deer, the Game Commission's goal continues to be to prevent further introductions of CWD into our state and to prevent spread within the state. The movement of high-risk carcass parts (brain, spinal cord, lymphoid tissues) is a potential avenue through which CWD could be spread. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have developed regulations to prohibit the importation of high-risk carcass parts from CWD endemic states and provinces. Pennsylvania's importation ban prohibits the importation of high-risk carcass parts from these areas. Those hunting within Pennsylvania's CWD-positive areas are also subject to high-risk parts movement restrictions. These parts may not be removed from the designated Disease Management Areas (DMAs).

What carcass parts are safe to move?
Pennsylvania's high-risk carcass parts ban does not limit the importation of: meat, without the backbone; skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure is present; or finished taxidermy mounts. These same parts may be moved out of Pennsylvania's DMAs.

What precautions should hunters take?
Hunters should only harvest animals that appear healthy, and take common-sense precautions like wearing gloves while field dressing an animal and washing hands and equipment thoroughly when finished. Hunters in areas where CWD is known to exist should follow these guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease:

  • Do not shoot, handle or consume an animal that appears sick.
  • Wear rubber or nitrile gloves when field dressing.
  • Bone out the meat from your animal.
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing.
  • Ask your deer processor to process your meat individually or process your own meat.
  • Have your animal processed in the area of the state where it was harvested so high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of. It is illegal to take high-risk parts listed in the Cervid Parts Importation Ban out of any Pennsylvania DMA.
  • Do not import high-risk parts from other states where CWD is known to exist. High-risk parts are described in the Cervid Parts Importation Ban.
  • Transport out of any Pennsylvania DMA, or bring back to Pennsylvania only low-risk parts: meat without the backbone, skull plate with attached antlers if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present, tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present, cape if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present upper canine teeth if no root structure or other soft material is present, and finished taxidermy mounts. If you plan to hunt in CWD-positive areas, and want to avoid transporting parts that are banned, take a moment to view this video.
  • Don't consume high-risk parts. Normal field-dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
  • Have your animal tested, and do not consume meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.

Where can I have my deer tested?
Hunters can submit their harvested deer to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) for testing.

Is the meat of a CWD positive deer safe to eat?
There is no evidence that under natural conditions CWD affects any species other than those in the deer family. However, as a precaution, hunters are advised to not eat meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

What if I harvest a deer with evidence of being ear tagged?
Hunters should immediately notify the nearest Game Commission region office if their harvested deer has evidence of being tagged; this could be actual ear tags, torn ears, or holes in the ears. This may indicate an escape from a captive cervid facility.

What if I hunt in an area affected by CWD?
Hunters should continue to enjoy deer and elk hunting in Pennsylvania. However, with the discovery of CWD, hunters should become familiar with the restrictions in any Executive Order for any designated Disease Management Area (DMA) such as prohibitions on feeding and rehabilitation of deer, the use of urine-based lures, and transportation out of the DMA of specific cervid carcass parts. If you plan to hunt in another state where CWD has been found, contact that state's wildlife agency for guidance and be aware that Pennsylvania has a Cervid Parts Importation Ban for these areas.

What if I'm hunting outside Pennsylvania?
Hunters traveling outside of Pennsylvania should consult State and Province CWD Regulations (CWDA*). Most have up-to-date information on the status of CWD in their state or province on their websites. The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance is also a reliable online resource. Be aware that Pennsylvania has a Cervid Parts Importation Ban for some areas. 


What can you do as a meat processor to prevent the spread of CWD?
Determine if the cervid carcass presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or area, including Pennsylvania's DMAs.

  1. If the cervid carcass IS NOT from a CWD-positive state or area:
    1. Wear latex or rubber gloves when processing the carcass.
    2. Bone the carcass to minimize cutting into high-risk parts.
    3. Avoid cutting into the backbone, either lengthwise or across the spine.
    4. Dispose of butcher waste through the trash, or in food waste dumpsters intended for regulated landfills.
  2. If the cervid carcass IS from a CWD-positive state or area:
    1. If high-risk parts are present, contact your Game Commission region office for disposal procedures.
    2. If no high-risk parts are present proceed according to the recommendations in item 1a. and 1b. above.
    3. Thoroughly clean hands and processing tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    4. Keep all cervid meat and meat products from CWD-positive or suspect animals separated from other meat.
    5. CWD-positive meat or waste should not be rendered, burned in burn barrels, deposited in bone piles or spread in areas where it can come in contact with other animals. Contact your Game Commission region office with questions.

What can you do as a taxidermist to prevent the spread of CWD?
Determine if the specimen presented to you is from a CWD-positive state or area, including Pennsylvania's DMAs.

  1. If the specimen IS NOT from a CWD-positive state or area (including Pennsylvania DMAs):
    1. Wear latex or rubber gloves when working on the specimen.
    2. Thoroughly clean hands and taxidermy tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    3. Dispose of carcass parts through the trash, or in food waste dumpsters intended for regulated landfills.
    4. Do not allow animals to have access to your taxidermy area or taxidermy waste.
  2. If the specimen IS from a CWD-positive state or area (including Pennsylvania DMAs) AND if high-risk parts are present (such as whole head with cape and alters or whole carcass):
    1. Notify the local Game Commission region office.
    2. After receiving authorization from the Game Commission, the taxidermist may cape out the head and remove the antlers being careful to remove all visible brain and spinal cord material from the skull cap and cape.
    3. Wear latex or rubber gloves when working on the specimen.
    4. Thoroughly clean hands and taxidermy tools with soap and water; then sanitize tools in a solution of 50 percent household chlorine bleach and 50 percent water for one hour.
    5. CWD-positive meat or waste should not be rendered, burned in burn barrels, deposited in bone piles or spread in areas where it can come in contact with other animals. Contact your Game Commission region office with questions.
    6. Do not allow animals to have access to your taxidermy area or taxidermy waste.






Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797