Fact Sheet

Chronic Wasting Disease



NCEL Point of Contact

Logan Christian
Wildlife and Habitat Coordinator



Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that affects cervids (deer, elk, moose, and caribou). This wildlife disease has raised concern in regards to its implications for hunters who often come into direct contact with these animals, and for Indigenous and other communities that typically consume cervid meat. Economic impacts have also been reported, with a decline of Minnesota deer licenses purchased between 2017-2019 in regions affected by CWD.

Key Points

Key Point 1

CWD disease, like many wildlife diseases, can spread through direct animal-to-animal contact, via passage of urine, saliva, blood, or feces, or through contact with carcasses of infected animals. (Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance)

Key Point 2

As of 2020, 26 states have reported cases of CWD in free-ranging cervids. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Key Point 3

With the scientific uncertainty surrounding CWD, some researchers are concerned that CWD may be able to spread to humans and other mammals. (Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance)

Key Point 4

Artificial congregation of cervids (i.ie. agency feeding of free-roaming wildlife or in private hunting reserves) poses a high risk of CWD and other wildlife disease transmission. (National Park Service)


  • In 2017, Congress introduced the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act (HR 4454) to provide additional funding for CWD research and management efforts.
  • Montana also passed a bill (SJ. 9) in 2017 that creates an interim committee to study CWD impacts and strategies for its control
  • Mississippi recently introduced a bill (HB 450) that would require CWD testing of white-tailed deer harvested within any enclosure.
  • Minnesota released a Comprehensive Plan in 2017 with more than five bills addressing CWD with a focus on long- term control and prevention.
  • In an effort to prevent the spread across state lines, New Jersey recently introduced A.949 that would prevent the possession of deer or elk originating from outside the State.


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

CWD Fact Sheet - U.S. Department of the Interior

An overview of CWD and its effects on wildlife and the public.

Go to resource
Recommendations for Adaptive Management of Chronic Wasting Disease in the West - WAFWA

A report produced by The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies on effective management strategies of CWD in the West.

Go to resource
CWD Cervid Herd Certification Program - USDA

A cooperative effort in which the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) coordinates with State agencies to encourage cervid owners to certify their herds and comply with the CWD Herd Certification Program Standards.

Go to resource

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