Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of infected cervids (deer, elk and moose) in certain geographic locations in North America. CWD attacks the brain of infected animals and produces enough damage to eventually result in death.

Current Status:
During the fall of 2012 chronic wasting disease was detected on a captive white-tailed deer farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania. In March 2013 the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced three free-ranging white-tailed deer harvested during the 2012 firearms season from Bedford (1) and Blair (2) counties also were found to be positive for CWD. The three free-ranging deer were sampled as part of the Game Commission's annual testing of a portion of hunter-harvested deer. 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). UPDATE: Test results confirming a Bedford County road-killed buck submitted for testing in November was CWD positive were returned December 24, 2013. Testing of samples submitted in 2013 still continues.

Fast Facts:
  • Chronic wasting disease has been found within the Commonwealth. Disease Management Areas (DMAs) have been established to help address this concern.
  • Within DMAs, rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids are prohibited.
  • If CWD is detected in any sample, the hunter will be notified and personally visited by a Game Commission staff member.
  • If you want assurance that your deer will be tested for CWD, you should contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-787-8808 and make arrangements for delivery and payment for testing.
  • Deer carcasses and high-risk parts should never be put out on the landscape, but rather be disposed of with trash that is deposited in a landfill.
  • Removing high-risk parts from any DMA is prohibited, with the exception of taking them to Game Commission-approved locations outside any DMA.
  • 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 PGC Region Office.

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:
Simple Precautions When Pursing or Handling Deer & Elk (CWDA*)
Field Dressing, Boning and Home Processing: VIDEOS (CWDA*)
Information on having your deer tested can be found on the Department of Agriculture's webpage (PDA*)

For Taxidermists & Processors:
Every meat processor should know. . .
Every taxidermist should know . . .

What is CWD?
Chronic wasting disease FAQs
Chronic Wasting Disease in PA brochure
Wildlife Disease Reference Library document on CWD
Shedding Light on chronic wasting disease: VIDEO (CWDA*)

CWD in Pennsylvania
CWD in Pennsylvania – May 2013 Update: VIDEO
Update to Rules Regarding CWD (September 2013)
Cervid Parts Importation Ban
CWD Executive Order
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 and Huntingdon counties
Pennsylvania CWD Response Plan

Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance (CWDA)
Captive Cervid Breeding Fact Sheet (The Wildlife Society)
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) CWD webpage: Commercial deer farms are inspected and regulated by PDA, which tests all mortality of suspect animals that die in a captive setting. PDA will test hunter-killed deer for CWD for a fee.

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