CWD questions and answers

What is chronic wasting disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease that affects cervids – deer, elk, moose, reindeer and caribou. There is no cure or vaccine and the disease always is fatal. It causes the brain of the infected animal to deteriorate, which eventually results in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. CWD is a prion disease and is in the same family as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), scrapie (sheep) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (humans). Visit the about page for more information.

What wildlife species other than deer are affected by CWD?

CWD is a disease that is specific to deer, moose, elk, caribou and reindeer as well as their subspecies. This group of wildlife are collectively called "cervids." Current research suggests that there is no known transmission to other species that come in contact with CWD-infected material. Visit the about page for more information.

Is my deer safe to eat?

Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans; however, public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that hunters do not consume meat from animals known to be infected. More information is available from the CDC at

  • Consider having your deer processed and wrapped individually, either privately or commercially.
  • Consider having your deer tested if you are outside of DNR’s mandatory sampling framework. Although CWD testing is not a food safety test it could indicate if your deer is infected.
  • All deer that are tested should either be processed or stored in a manner to prevent wanton waste while waiting for test results.
  • It is the hunter’s choice to consume venison prior to receiving test results.
  • The prions that cause CWD are very resistant to heat and freezing temperatures. Cooking or freezing the meat will not remove prions from any infected meat.

You can find additional information on the about page and the resources page.

Can cattle get CWD?

Currently there are no reported cases of natural transmission between CWD-infected animals and cattle. There are several ongoing investigations and research efforts to further understand the risks.

Where has CWD been found?

As of July 2018, CWD is found in 25 states, two Canadian provinces, the Republic of Korea, Finland and Norway. In Minnesota, there have been eight confirmed deer/elk farms that have tested positive, as well as 18 wild deer – one in Olmsted County in 2010, and 17 in Fillmore County in 2016/2017. For more information and a timeline of CWD in Minnesota, please visit the about page and click on the Minnesota CWD timeline heading.

Where did CWD come from?

It is not known where CWD originated; however, it was first diagnosed in a captive mule deer at a Colorado research facility in 1967.

How is it spread in deer?

CWD is spread through both direct (animal-to-animal) and indirect (environmental) contact of infected deer to healthy deer. CWD-infected deer can infect a healthy deer through:

  • Infected saliva, urine, blood, feces, and antler velvet.
  • Infected carcasses left on the ground produce vegetation that attracts deer, where they pick up the prion from plants.
  • Artificial feeding sites, or attractants such as salt licks and scents. These sites concentrate deer and create an environment of close contact among animals.
What are CWD symptoms seen in deer?

CWD is a slow, progressive disease; it can incubate for 18 months to three years before clinical signs begin to appear. This means that older deer, males in particular due to their rutting behavior, which increases deer interactions, have the highest infection risk. Throughout most of the infection period, the deer appears to be healthy but is continually spreading the disease. Clinical signs include:

  • Weight loss, emaciation.
  • Excessive drooling and salivation.
  • Loss of fear or humans.
  • Loss of body control, tremors or staggering.
  • Drooping head or ears.
  • Apparent confusion.
How does DNR test for CWD?

Testing is conducted through collection of two lymph nodes from the head of a harvested deer. These samples are sent to a certified laboratory, where the sample is prepared and the test is completed. Results are reported back to DNR as either "CWD not detected" or "CWD positive." Individual hunters can view their test results online at CWD test results.

Why does it take so long to get my test results?

Removing the lymph nodes that we use to test for CWD is only the beginning of the process. The data needs to be proofed, matched with the sample, entered in a database, double and then triple-checked before getting shipped to the testing laboratory. Once at the laboratory, the sample is cleaned and prepared for testing. The screening testing is then completed in about a day. If the test comes back positive, a confirmation test is completed. This test can take up to a week to complete. We realize people are anxious to get their results and we are able to provide three to four business day turnaround in our CWD management zone to accommodate the carcass movement restrictions. This is by far the fastest results of any state conducting CWD surveillance. In some states, the wait for results can be several months. Deer harvested within the CWD zone are tested first since deer can't be moved out of the zone until a "not detected" result is received. Since hunters who harvest a deer outside the CWD zone can move it freely within Minnesota without waiting for a test result, those test results can be expected two to three weeks after harvest registration.

What should I do if I see a sick deer?

Please immediately report any sick deer to your local conservation officer or area wildlife office.

How do I learn about CWD testing?

Know if you are hunting in a mandatory testing area, by visiting the CWD page.

Before arriving at a sampling station plan to:

  • Position your deer with the head towards the tailgate or back of vehicle for easy access to the neck.
  • Know where you shot the deer on a map; township, range, section location.
  • Have your blue hunting license available for DNR staff to record information.
  • Have a plan in place if hunting inside deer permit area 603 since the entire intact carcass cannot leave that zone until test results are confirmed.
I’m not in a DNR surveillance area, can I still get my deer tested for CWD?

If you are hunting outside of these mandatory sampling requirements and still wish to get your deer tested, you can submit your own sample to the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. They will perform a CWD test on your deer for a fee. Please visit University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab's CWD testing submission page. The lab also has created a document with information for hunters who want to get their deer sampled for CWD but are outside of mandatory surveillance efforts in Minnesota. For more information about fees and submitting your sample, please plan to contact them in advance at 612-625-8787. To watch a video showing how to collect your own sample please watch the DNR video on how to collect your own CWD sample.

Where can I check my test results online?

If your deer was sampled by DNR, your results should be available online on the CWD test results page.

If you brought your deer to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for self-testing, they will report the results directly to you.

What are the feeding and attractant bans? Am I affected?

Currently, two different restrictions are in place within the state to help reduce concentrations of deer in areas where CWD is known to be a risk. The feeding ban in north central and central areas of the state does not allow any deer feeding. There is a ban in Minnesota’s southeast counties that restricts both deer feeding and the use of any attractants.

Starting Sept. 1, 2019, due to further discoveries of CWD, these feeding and attractant bans will expand to include additional counties in north central and southeast Minnesota.

For definitions of feed and attractants, a map of affected counties, and more information, please visit the feeding and attractant bans page.

Are there deer carcass movement restrictions in Minnesota?

Yes. Deer harvested in chronic wasting disease management or control zones are subject to carcass movement restrictions. There are no movement restrictions within the state outside of these areas. Please see the movement and carcass restrictions page for more information.

Can I import deer, elk, moose and caribou from outside of Minnesota?

Minnesota does not allow whole carcasses from cervids (deer, elk, moose, caribou and reindeer) into the state from any state or province, regardless of CWD status. This is part of a comprehensive carcass importation rule aimed at decreasing risk associated with importing potentially infected carcasses.

Since 2003, carcasses from areas known to have CWD have been prohibited from entry into the state. With the increasing CWD infections in captive and wild cervids across the country, it is difficult to maintain current information that allows hunters to make an informed decision about importation. As we are all very concerned about the long-term health of our deer (and elk and moose), we changed the rules to prohibit all whole carcasses from any state or province, regardless of CWD status. We realize this potentially presents an inconvenience for hunters; however, we ask that you incorporate carcass handling and trophy preparation into your trip planning process.

If you don’t know how to quarter your deer for legal importation, there are many videos online that provide very good instruction. For your trophy mount, we suggest that you work with your local taxidermist or a taxidermist in your destination state and arrange to have it caped at that location. Alternatively, you can find videos online that can help you cape your own animal.

Hunters traveling through Minnesota on their way to their home state are exempt from this regulation.

For more information, please see the movement and carcass restrictions page.

How does killing deer help control CWD?

Reducing the population helps minimize the spread of disease. Fewer deer means less deer-to-deer contact, reducing the risk of sick deer transmitting CWD to healthy deer. All deer killed are not infected with CWD but when an infected deer is killed, it is removed from the population and can no longer spread the disease.

Do other states have carcass restrictions?

Yes. CWD is a disease of national importance and Minnesota is one of 40 states that have imposed some sort of carcass restriction. In total, 12 states have whole carcass restrictions, regardless of CWD status. Out-of-state hunters are encouraged to check their destination state regulations for more information. Another good resources is the CWD Alliance, which maintains a running list of state-by-state regulations.

Will any hunting or shooting of deer occur on private land?

Landowners must grant permission for any hunting or shooting of deer to occur on their land. All hunters need landowner permission to hunt on any private land. DNR or its agents cannot enter private land for deer removal efforts without landowner permission.

What if I harvest a trophy deer during mandatory CWD surveillance?

You have several options if you harvest a trophy deer during mandatory CWD surveillance. DNR has a list of cooperating taxidermists who have agreed to take lymph nodes from trophy animals after they have finished removing the cape from the deer. A list of participating taxidermists will be on the DNR website prior to the deer season. Alternatively, you can bring your trophy deer to a sampling station and tell DNR staff that you wish to have that animal mounted. They will not take a sample on the day of harvest but will fill out some additional paperwork with you. Once your personal taxidermist has finished removing the antlers and cape from your trophy, it will be you responsibility to return that caped-out head to an area wildlife office for further testing. Remember, testing is still considered mandatory, even if you use either of these options.