Department of Fish and Wildlife issues Chronic Wasting Disease warning

Department of Fish and Wildlife issues Chronic Wasting Disease warning


Photo: Black tailed deer. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.

Information provided by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said that With California’s Big Game Drawing complete and big game hunters planning in state and out of state hunting trips in the fall, it is reminding hunters once again to be vigilant in helping to keep Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) out of California.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk, moose and reindeer. It has been detected in captive or free-ranging deer in 26 states and two Canadian provinces. The disease spreads through contact with infected animals, tissues and environments. The Department has been testing and monitoring for the disease in California deer and elk herds for more than 20 years with no detections to date.

“Our big game hunters have been incredible partners in this effort and should be proud,” said Dr. Brandon Munk, the Department’s wildlife veterinarian. “The potential for this deadly disease to spread to California remains very real. We all need to remain vigilant and adhere to Chronic Wasting Disease best practices. That includes testing harvested animals, following safety recommendations when cleaning and handling game, knowing and abiding by state regulations when transporting harvested deer or elk meat into California from out of state.”

Get Your Animals Tested

The Department will again staff voluntary Chronic Wasting Disease sampling and hunter check stations throughout the state during upcoming deer seasons. At these locations, hunters can have their deer tag validated while contributing to Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance. A list of sampling locations and dates will be available at the Department’s CWD web page. If hunting out of state, be sure to check with that state’s wildlife agency for any mandatory disease testing or handling requirements in the area you will be hunting. Some states may restrict the movement of an animal carcass or other parts in Chronic Wasting Disease zones. Fish and Wildlife recommends testing any deer or elk harvested in a Chronic Wasting Disease -positive area, whether there is a mandatory test requirement or not. Most states will have information on how to get a deer or elk tested for the disease. Fish and Wildlife does not routinely test out of state animals.

Use Caution When Handling Game

Hunters are advised to wear gloves when field dressing and processing their animals. A best practice to prevent the movement of Chronic Wasting Disease is to bone out meat from harvested animals, leaving brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes where the animal was harvested. Hunters should wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing and avoid eating meat from sick or Chronic Wasting Disease -positive animals.

Report Sick Animals

Report any deer or elk exhibiting abnormal signs via the Department’s online Mortality Reporting system.

Know the Laws When Bringing Deer or Elk Into California

The California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 712 governs the importation of hunter-harvested deer and elk into California. It is unlawful to import, or possess any hunter harvested deer or elk (cervid) carcass or parts of any cervid carcass imported into the state, except for the following body parts:

  • portions of meat with no part of the spinal column, brain or head attached (other bones, such as legs and shoulders, may be attached).
  • hides and capes (no spinal column, brain tissue or head may be attached).
  • clean skull plates (no brain tissue may be present) with antlers attached.
  • antlers with no meat or tissue attached, except legally harvested and possessed antlers in the velvet stage are allowed, if no meat, brain or other tissue is attached.
  • finished taxidermy mounts with no meat or tissue attached (antlers in the velvet stage are allowed if no meat, brain or other tissue is attached).
  • upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers, ivories).

For more information on keeping California’s deer and elk herds safe and free from Chronic Wasting Disease, please visit CDFW’s CWD web page.

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