Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first discovered in Colorado in 1967 and in Nebraska in 2000 in Kimball County. Since 1997 Game and Parks staff have tested nearly 49,000 deer and found 289 that tested positive. CWD is now found in 30 counties, some as far east as Grand Island, as well as in 21 states and two Canadian provinces. While questions remain, most hunters have adjusted to CWD on the landscape. For more information on CWD, visit the CWD Alliance web site.
What you should know
- CWD is prion disease that attacks the brain of an infected deer and elk, eventually causing emaciation, listlessness, excessive salivation and death. Infection rates in harvested animals in some deer management units exceed 6 percent, but there have been no population declines in Nebraska attributed to CWD at this time
- Human health concerns for CWD remain modest, as no person is known to have contracted CWD from eating an infected deer. However, given the number of human deaths in Europe linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, people should remain cautious in how they handle, process and consume deer. Hunters and commercial processors should avoid any butchering or processing of deer that spreads spinal cord or brain tissue to meat or to the environment.
- Deer health concerns remain a primary concern, and hunters can help prevent the spread of CWD by using proper carcass disposal methods. CWD prions can remain viable for months or even years in the soil. We advise hunters to field dress animals at the place of kill and to dispose of the head (brain), spinal column and other bones at a licensed landfill.
- While the exact method of CWD transmission is unknown, we know that CWD is transmitted from animal to animal. In all probability, the transmission is through body fluids like feces, urine or saliva. Animals that are crowded or confined have a greater chance of encountering the body fluids of other animals and, therefore, a higher likelihood of becoming infected if CWD prions are present.
CWD has been reported in the following Nebraska counties:
- Box Butte
- Red Willow
- Scotts Bluff