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Friday, May 27, 2016

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose. CWD is similar to BSE (mad cow disease) in cattle and scrapie in sheep. There is no cure or prevention for the disease.

CWD was introduced into Saskatchewan farmed elk, from infected elk imported from the United States, in the late 1980s. CWD was first detected in a wild mule deer in the fall of 2000. It has since spread to wild white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose in Saskatchewan.

The disease is caused by infectious proteins, called prions, which are resistant to breakdown by the animal. These infectious proteins begin to accumulate in the nervous tissue of the animal and eventually cause microscopic holes to a form in the brain. Over time, infected animals become weak and emaciated and tend to drink large amounts of water and salivate excessively. CWD is invariably fatal and could have severe impacts on deer and elk populations throughout North America.

The disease transmits from one animal to another, through contaminated saliva, feces and urine. The infectious material remains in the environment for an unknown period of time (longer than three years) and can be transmitted from the soil to the animals. Animals may also be infected by eating and drinking from contaminated food and water sources.

As of January, 2016, CWD in wild deer, elk, and moose has been found within 31 Wildlife Management Zones in the province. The true extent and effects of CWD in wild deer within Saskatchewan is unknown. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that CWD can infect humans. However, as a precaution, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all products from animals suspected or infected with any prion disease should not be consumed. As a precautionary measure, the Ministry of Health suggests that all animals taken be tested


  • Recent research projects on deer include one in the Manitou Sandhills, south of Lloydminster and another along the Saskatchewan River from Riverhurst to the Alberta border CWD research website. A third research project on cervids occurred in 2014 near Nipawin.

  • An important part of this research involved putting radio collars on deer; Over 300 radio-collars were deployed on deer in these areas.

  • Please do not shoot any collared deer.

  • If a collared deer is observed, found dead or accidentally shot, please report the occurrence to the number specified on the neck collar or the University of Saskatchewan at 1-888-966-5815. Turn the collar into your nearest conservation officer.

  • In addition, some deer will be tranquilized and implanted with ear tags. It is important that hunters contact 1-888-966-5815 prior to consuming meat from any tagged or collared deer.

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