Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
(updated April 25, 2014)
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease that is fatal to deer, elk and moose. It is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy or TSE and it attacks the brains of infected animals, resulting in their becoming emaciated, exhibiting abnormal behavior and eventually dying. Related animal diseases include scrapie, which has been identified in sheep for over 200 years; and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow disease," in cattle.
NH Fish and Game conducts CWD monitoring and surveillance in wild deer, and the N.H. Agriculture Department has a testing program for captive deer and elk, so that we'll know as early as possible if CWD does get to New Hampshire. To date, CWD has not been detected here.
While New Hampshire works to protect wild and captive deer and wild moose, it is important that hunters understand the potential risks CWD poses to our deer and that they be aware of the rules and regulations in New Hampshire and elsewhere designed to minimize the potential threat from CWD.
New Hampshire has put various administrative rules in place to protect our wild and captive deer. These include:
N.H. Fish and Game prohibits the importation of live white-tailed deer and moose into New Hampshire, and the N.H. Department of Agriculture closely regulates the importation of other live cervids (members of the deer family), requiring them to meet both state and federal animal health standards, including CWD-free herd certification.
- In addition, N.H. Fish and Game prohibits the importation into the state of hunter-killed cervid carcasses or parts of carcasses from the jurisdictions in which CWD has been detected, except for de-boned meat, antlers, antlers attached to skull caps from which all soft tissue has been removed, upper canine teeth (a.k.a. buglers, whistlers or ivories), hides or capes with no part of the head attached, and finished taxidermy mounts.
These regulations are designed to minimize the risk of New Hampshire's deer and moose being exposed to CWD through the importation of an infected animal, or the disposal of brain or nervous tissue, lymph nodes, bones and other tissue from an infected hunter killed animal. The disease agent of CWD, an abnormal protein called a prion, is very stable and could easily be spread if diseased deer parts were disposed of in our environment.
Please don't feed deer! The artificially high deer densities associated with feeding create the potential for increased spread and prevalence of CWD, both from infected feed and close contact among individual deer. Deer feeding provides limited benefits to deer but adds significantly to the risk that disease could be spread more quickly and widely.
CWD-positive JurisdictionsTo date, CWD has been detected in wild or captive deer or elk in 24 states and provinces. These include Alberta, Canada; Colorado; Iowa; Illinois; Kansas; Maryland; Michigan; Minnesota; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; New Mexico; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Saskatchewan, Canada; South Dakota; Texas; Utah; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.
FAQS about N.H. and CWDFollowing are Frequently Asked Questions about New Hampshire and CWD. Click on a question to view the answer.
Urine used to produce commercial deer lures is often from farm-raised deer and elk. Low levels of the infectious prion that causes CWD have been detected in urine, and therefore it is possible that these prions may be present in urine-based lures if collected from infected animals. If CWD prions are present in urine-based lures, and these lures are placed where deer can come in contact with them, it is possible that New Hampshire’s deer population could contract CWD from this source. Research suggests that prions can remain unaffected in the soil for years, remaining a source of possible exposure and infection for NH deer. It is not known if any deer/elk used to produce urine-based lures have ever contracted CWD, and deer lures are not currently being tested for the presence of CWD prions.
Until research is conducted that shows urine-based lures are not a threat of spreading CWD, we strongly discourage their use. There are many effective synthetic deer lures on the market today that can be used in their place. If urine-based lures are used, apply them to scent wicks and place them above deer height and let the air circulate the scent. Refrain from using them on your clothing or skin to avoid any potential human exposure. Do not place them on vegetation or soil as the infective prion can remain in the environment for years as a possible source of exposure for New Hampshire deer. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. (These recommendations were adapted from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.)
Advice for HuntersThose hunting in CWD-positive jurisdictions MUST follow the regulations regarding deer, elk or moose carcass importation into New Hampshire. You can bring back ONLY deboned meat, antlers, upper canine teeth and/or hides or capes with no part of the head attached. Antlers attached to skull caps or canine teeth must have all soft tissue removed. Help keep New Hampshire CWD-free -- it's the law.
If you hunt deer or elk in other states and provinces, particularly those in which CWD has been detected, you should check with their state fish and wildlife agency to see if they have any specific advice to hunters or special regulations.
Handling wild game: There is no need for alarm, as it is unlikely that CWD is in New Hampshire. However, hunters field-dressing or butchering deer or moose should take the same precautions as they might to protect against other pathogens or diseases. The following common-sense precautionary measures are recommended:
- Avoid shooting or handling a deer that appears sick.
- Wear rubber gloves when gutting or butchering deer.
- Never eat a deer's brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen, or lymph nodes.
- Bone the deer (remove the meat from the bones and spinal column).
- Avoid cutting through bones or the spinal column.
- If you saw off antlers or through a bone, or if you severe the spinal column with a knife, be sure to disinfect those tools prior to using them for the butchering or removal of meat.
- Remove all fat, membranes and connective tissue from the meat. Note that normal field dressing and trimming of fat from meat will remove lymph nodes.
- Use a 50/50 solution of household chlorine bleach and water to disinfect tools and work surfaces.