Disease of Deer Information

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)  USGS CWD Map
     According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services as of 2011, approximately 164,500 farmed cervids (both deer and elk) have been tested across the nation since 2002. Of that number, only 171 farmed cervids tested positive for CWD. Of those, USDA reported CWD was detected in 13 farmed white-tailed deer herds and 39 farmed elk herds in 11 states: Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Out of approximately 775,000 free-ranging wild cervids tested since 2002, approximately 3,130 animals were found to be positive in 15 states: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Click on map for larger image.

Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, updates and information

Research on Chronic Wasting Disease

... As the area where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found continues to expand, there is concern over the impact it may have on elk (Cervus elaphus) populations that congregate on winter feedgrounds in Wyoming. A stochastic simulation model ... Modeling the free-ranging elk herd without hunting or differences in survival by genotype resulted in a near extinction decrease in elk numbers over a 100-year period...

Genetic assignment tests reveal dispersal of white-tailed deer: implications for chronic wasting disease ML Green, MB Manjerovic, N Mateus-Pinilla… - Journal of Mammalogy, 2014
... Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was first detected among white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Illinois in 2002. Although CWD was focused in northern Illinois, 4 infected deer were sampled in 2011 from locations greater than 100 km south of the disease focus. We used assignment tests  to determine a likely genetic source location for infected deer...  Distances for males were greater than those for females using Oncor, but there was no difference in distance based on age. Because there are few barriers to gene flow for white-tailed deer, managers should reduce movement of deer in CWD-infected areas ...

WJ Pape, J Forster, CA Anderson, P Bosque, M Miller…June, 2014
... The transmission of the prion disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to humans raises concern about chronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease of deer and elk. In 7 Colorado counties with high CWD prevalence ... In Colorado, human prion disease resulting from CWD exposure is rare or nonexistent. However, given uncertainties about the incubation period, exposure, and clinical presentation, the possibility that the CWD agent might cause human disease cannot be eliminated.

Surveillance and monitoring of white-tailed deer for chronic wasting disease in the northeastern United States TS Evans, KL Schuler, WD Walter - Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management, 2014
... Between 2002 and 2012, New York (37,093) and Pennsylvania (35,324) tested the greatest number of harvested white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Northeast. Additionally, the 14 states surveyed have tested 121,730 harvested deer, or approximately 15,216 per year, since CWD was first detected in the region in 2005. The most common tissues used by agencies in the Northeast for testing were retropharyngeal lymph nodes which have been determined to be the most reliable in detecting CWD in cervids. ...

Researchers identify terrain likely to attract CWD-infected deer April 10, 2014 Pennsylvania, back40forums.com
... A study of the spread of chronic wasting disease among white-tailed deer in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania found that infected deer tend to cluster in low-lying open and developed areas. These results suggest that state wildlife management agencies should concentrate surveillance efforts in such topography and landscapes, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences...

Study suggests shooting more bucks to reduce CWD March 28, 2014 Wisconsin, Green Bay Press-Gazette 
... A just-released University of Wisconsin study on chronic wasting disease recommends focusing more hunting pressure on the deer most likely to carry and spread CWD in whitetails: bucks, the males of the species.... Read the study

UNL, Creighton researchers study chronic wasting March 21, 2014 Nebraska, Lexington Herald Leader
... Bartz and Bartelt-Hunt have focused specifically on chronic wasting disease, which can reduce the growth and size of wild deer and elk ... "I really think that our top finding has been ... that prions don't just bind to soils, but that different soil types really interact very differently with prions," ...

...The regression model indicated that larger and more compact forests were associated with higher risk for CWD. High risk areas also had soils with less clay and more sand than other parts of the region. The transmission potential was higher where
landscape features indicated the potential for higher deer concentrations. The inclusion of spatial lag variables improved the model. Of the 102 cases reported in the study area in the two years following the study period, 89 (87%) of those were in the 32% of the study area with the highest 50% of predicted risk of cases...

Chronic wasting disease concerns arise October 14, 2013 Wisconsin, Post-Crescent 
... Prions — the infectious, deformed proteins that cause chronic wasting disease in deer — can be taken up by plants such as alfalfa, corn and tomatoes, according to new research from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison... a previously unknown potential route of exposure to prions for a Wisconsin deer herd in which the fatal brain illness continues to spread...

Rapid Antemortem Detection of CWD Prions in Deer Saliva [HTML] DM Henderson, M Manca, NJ Haley, ND Denkers… - PLoS ONE, 2013
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an efficiently transmitted prion disease of cervids, now identified in 22 United States, 2 Canadian provinces and Korea. One hallmark of CWD is the shedding of infectious prions in saliva, as demonstrated by bioassay in deer...  Bioassay in Tg[CerPrP] mice confirmed the presence of infectious prions in 2 of 2 RT-QuIC-positive saliva samples so examined. The modified RT-QuIC analysis described represents a non-invasive, rapid ante-mortem detection of prions in complex biologic fluids, excreta, or environmental samples as well as a tool for exploring prion trafficking, peripheralization, and dissemination.

... Our generalized linear model showed that risk of CWD infection declined exponentially with distance from current outbreaks, and inclusion of gene flow barriers dramatically improved fit and predictive power of the model. Our results indicate that CWD is spreading across the Midwestern landscape from these two endemic foci, but spread is strongly influenced by highways and rivers that also reduce deer gene flow. We used our model to plot a risk map, providing important information for CWD management by identifying likely routes of disease spread and providing a tool for prioritizing disease monitoring and containment efforts...

... The results showed that deer population management intervention as practiced in Illinois during the study period was negatively associated with CWD prevalence and the strength of association varied depending on age of deer and the measure of intervention pressure. The population management programs showed a more consistent association with reduced CWD prevalence in fawn and yearling white-tailed deer than in adult deer. Our results also suggested that frequent and continuing intervention events with at least moderate intensity of culling were needed to reduce CWD prevalence. A longer study period, however, is needed to make a more definite conclusion about the effectiveness of similar population management programs for controlling CWD in wild white-tailed deer.

... We evaluated how frequency-dependent, density-dependent, and intermediate transmission models predicted CWD incidence rates in harvested yearling deer.... Our results indicate a combination of social structure, non-linear relationships between infectious contact and deer density, and distribution of disease among groups are important factors driving CWD infection in young deer. The landscape covariates % deciduous forest cover and forest edge density also were positively associated with infection rates, but soil clay content had no measurable influences on CWD transmission. Lack of strong density-dependent transmission rates indicates that controlling CWD by reducing deer density will be difficult....

State antlerless deer herds get scrutiny April 1, 2013 Pennsylvania, Tribune-Review
... Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists want to maintain deer herds at existing levels across most of Pennsylvania this fall... The goal is to reduce the deer herd in wildlife management units 3C and 3D in northeastern Pennsylvania, where deer impacts on forests are still too high, and in units 4A, 5A and 5B, where chronic wasting disease has been found, he said. [the Wisconsin Legislative Budget office determined that reducing deer density to combat CWD has not been successful, supporting reseach: Deer density and disease prevalence influence transmission of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer]. ...

Documentary on Chronic Wasting Disease, April, 2013, Deer & Wildlife Stories



...  We recently identified American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) as having the potential to translocate infectious prions in their feces. Our results suggest that this common, migratory North American scavenger is capable of translocating infectious prions to disease-free areas, potentially seeding CWD infection where no other initial source of pathogen establishment is forthcoming. Here we speculate on the role avian scavengers, like American crows, might play in the spatial dissemination of CWD. We also consider the role mammalian scavengers may play in dispersing prions.

Immunization with a Synthetic Peptide Vaccine Fails to Protect Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) from Chronic Wasting Disease JL Pilon, JC Rhyan, LL Wolfe, TR Davis, MP McCollum… - Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 2013
... Chronic wasting disease (CWD) adversely affects both wild and captive cervid populations. A vaccine to prevent CWD would be a highly desirable tool to aid in disease management. To this end, we tested in mule deer a combination of CWD vaccines ... that had previously been shown to delay onset of clinical disease.. Deer were monitored intermittently for prion infection by rectal and tonsil biopsies beginning 275 days postchallenge. All vaccinates responded to both peptide conjugates present in the combination vaccine as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. However, all deer eventually became infected regardless of vaccine status.

... Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease of captive and free-ranging deer (Odocoileus spp), elk (Cervus elaphus nelsonii) and moose (Alces alces shirasi). Unlike in most other prion diseases, in CWD prions are shed in urine and feces, which most likely contributes to the horizontal transmission within and between cervid species. To date, CWD ante-mortem diagnosis is only possible by immunohistochemical detection of protease resistant prion protein (PrPSc) in tonsil or recto-anal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (RAMALT) biopsies, which requires anesthesia of animals. We report on detection of CWD prions in urine collected from pre-symptomatic deer and in fecal extracts by using real time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC). This assay can be useful for non-invasive pre-symptomatic diagnosis and surveillance of CWD.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), the only known prion disease endemic in wildlife, is a persistent problem in both wild and captive North American cervid populations. This disease continues to spread and cases are found in new areas each year. Indirect transmission can occur via the environment and is thought to occur by the oral and/or intranasal route. Oral transmission has been experimentally demonstrated and although intranasal transmission has been postulated, it has not been tested in a natural host until recently. .. Our results demonstrate that CWD can be efficiently transmitted utilizing Mte particles as a prion carrier and intranasal exposure.

A Potapov, E Merrill, M Pybus, D Coltman, MA Lewis - Ecological Modelling, 2013
We develop a model for the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) population to assess possible mechanisms of disease transmission and parameterize it for the mule deer population in Alberta, Canada... Multiple mechanisms are likely to produce the ratio of male:female prevalence levels and include: (1) environmentally mediated transmission associated with higher food intake by males, (2) female to male transmission during mating of this polygamous species, (3) increased male susceptibility to CWD and (4) increased intensity of direct contacts within male social groups. All of these mechanisms belong to the class of frequency-dependent transmission. Also important is seasonality in deer social structure with an increasing ratio of prevalence in males:females under all mechanisms as the duration of sexual segregation increases throughout a year.

Emerging prion disease drives host selection in a wildlife population  Stacie J. Robinson ... Ecological Applications, 22(3), 2012, pp. 1050–1059
... Although relying on genetic change may not be viable for short-term disease management, CWD could exert considerable force to drive genetic evolution of host populations on an ecologically relevant timescale, especially in unharvested populations where greater CWD prevalence and mortality risk may lead to stronger selective pressure. [p. 1057]

USDA Establishes a Herd Certification Program for Chronic Wasting Disease in the U.S. June 9, 2012, PoliticalNews.me 
... The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced an interim final rule to establish a national chronic wasting disease (CWD) herd certification program (HCP) and minimum requirements for interstate movement of deer, elk and moose, or cervids ... This interim final rule is available athttp://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2012/06/pdf/cwd_rule.pdf

CDC Warns Against Exposure to 'Mad Cow'-Like Brain Diseases May 23, 2011 Disease U.S. News & World Report
The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that eating wild deer meat (venison) is one of the most common ways people are exposed to these serious, debilitating diseases. "While prion diseases are ... Hunting for deer or elk -- especially in regions where chronic wasting disease is considered common (northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska)....hunters in these areas should protect themselves from exposure to chronic wasting disease by taking the following steps: do not eat meat from sickly deer or elk; don't eat brain or spinal cord tissues; minimize the handling of brain and spinal cord tissues; and wear gloves when field-dressing carcasses.

Deer Disease News Archive by State

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Lyme Disease:  Deer are not susceptible to Lyme disease.   Mice are the main reservoir for Lyme disease.  Birds can carry to ticks over distances that may lead to the spread of the disease.  For more information, see the Deer and Lyme Disease page.


Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in Alberta, Canada MJ Pybus, M Ravi, C Pollock - Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 2014
... Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus serotype 2 was identified by reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR in a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) found dead in southern Alberta in September 2013. Field observations indicate at least 50 deer, primarily white-tailed deer, and three pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) died during a suspected localized EHD outbreak...

Molecular Typing of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotypes by One-Step Multiplex RT-PCR F Sun, M Cochran, T Beckham, A Clavijo - Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 2014
... Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) causes a highly infectious noncontagious hemorrhagic disease in wild and captive deer (Cervidae) populations in the United States. Although rapid and accurate identification of the disease is important, identification of the serotype is equally important for understanding the epidemiology of the disease in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations. We developed a one-step multiplex reverse transcriptase PCR assay for rapid differentiation and identification of EHDV serotypes 1, 2, and 6 ...

... , Bioo has announced that is it set to begin offering a new set of ELISA tests for the detection of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (EHDV), an orbivirus that infects most wild and domestic ruminants.  The new test will be  aimed at testing white-tailed deer in North America, as EHDV is endemic in North America among the white-tailed deer population...

EHD Alert: Is Your Deer Herd at Risk? March 17, 2014 Outdoor Life 
... According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS), 2012 was a record year for EHD. It was suspected or confirmed in deer deaths in 1,019 counties across 36 states, up significantly from the 2011 estimate of 332 affected counties.... 

... Cranial abscess disease is a cause of morbidity and mortality, particularly for mature, male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Most cases of cranial abscesses are associated with infection by Trueperella ... the patchy distribution of cranial abscess disease across Georgia is likely caused by differences in the genetics of the causative agent, T. pyogenes. White-tailed deer managers must recognize the potential to transport pathogenic bacteria and disease when relocating white-tailed deer...

Chronic Wasting Disease

Missing deer mystery unleashes litigation July 14, 2014 Louisiana, The Advocate 
... Hodge himself was lying dead in the woods. Exactly where the does ended up remains unclear... Called CWD, it is to deer what mad cow disease is to cows. Officials wanted to find the does and kill them before CWD became an epidemic in Louisiana... Exactly where the does ended up remains unclear...

US Agency Finalizes Deer Disease (CWD) Rules May 1, 2014 Courthouse News Service
... The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tuesday, finalized a rule meant to prevent the spread of a disease similar to mad cow disease found in deer and elk.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects deer, elk and moose, and is related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease... The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued the final version of aregulation ...

If the deer has a prion disease, will you catch it?, Chronic Wasting Disease,  January 16, 2014 Examiner.com
... Scientists still don't know whether eating that deer in the process of developing prion-caused brain and body wasting disease someone recently hunted can be passed to humans. … New research ... has uncovered a quality control mechanism in brain cells that may help keep deadly neurological diseases in check for months or years, says a January 16, 2014 news release, "Prion discovery could help keep deadly brain diseases in check."  ...  and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk ...

... Since the disease was first detected in Wisconsin in 2002, the state has conducted what can best be described as an eradication campaign ... A report issued in 2010 concluded that: “.. controlling CWD in free-ranging whitetails will be extremely challenging.” ... Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department has written that “... eradication is not a realistic disease management objective.”  So instead of gunning all animals down in the disease area ... liberalizing harvest quotas in the areas where the disease shows up... [click graph for larger image]


Deer Disease News Archive by State, Starts in the Left Column

Virginia Disease of Deer News

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Other Deer Disease 

HAIR-LOSS SYNDROME IN BLACK-TAILED DEER OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST ... by RJ Bildfell - 2004 -
... including coastal bays, coastal mountains, central valley agricultural land, and urban areas. ..... Academic Press Inc., San Diego, California, pp. 677–680. ... Pediculosis of mule deer and white- tailed deer fawns in captivity. ... In Foreign animal diseases, Carter Printing Company, Richmond, Virginia, pp. ...

(This is NOT wasting disease. After some research, I found the following about the deer's condition.) "Cutaneous fibromas (warts) are caused by a naturally occurring virus of the deer's skin. The virus that causes these unsightly warts in deer is believed to be transmitted through biting insects and/or direct contact with damaged skin. Once the virus enters the skin, warts begin to form. As the warts increase in size, the skin surrounding them is typically hairless and grayish in color. The number of warts on an infected animal can vary from one to several hundred, they can sometimes clump, and can in some cases end up covering much of the deer's body. For the most part, these warts will not cause a white-tailed deer any major problems. However, sometimes the growth of the wart can indirectly cause problems by restricting the consumption of food or the deer's breathing. Although death from fibromas in deer can occur, death from warts is not always imminent it seems. There have been many hunter testimonials of white-tailed deer with warts "shaking them off," so to speak. I can't say for sure." - October, 2013



Mystery Virus Kills 200 Wild Deer in Northern California September, 1993. Marla Cone, Times Environmental Writer An estimated 200 wild deer, mostly fawns, have died after being stricken by an unknown virus in suburban and remote mountain areas of Northern California, state wildlife officials reported Friday.

Deer have equine encephalitis September 24, 2005 Michigan BY ERIC SHARP FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
The mysterious disease that has affected deer in Kent County has been solved. State veterinarians say it is eastern equine encephalitis, sometimes found in horses but identified only once before in wild whitetails in the United States . . . residents of the southwest Michigan county have reported seeing deer stagger, drool, grow thin and lose fear of humans before dying.

Parapoxvirus Infections Caused by Contact With Deer 12/30/2010 MedPage Today In 2009, the CDC confirmed infections with parapoxvirus in two deer hunters in the eastern US, according to a brief report. ...