Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal illness of deer, elk, and moose. The disease is caused by prions (mutated proteins), which can be transmitted between animals through their saliva, urine, and potentially feces and bodily fluids. CWD has not been found in Washington's wildlife, despite having tested thousands of animals since 1995. However, the disease can be brought to new locations through the movement of infected animals or animal parts such as bone, organs, and bodily fluids. Once present in the environment, the prions can persist for many years and are very difficult to deactivate. CWD has been found in animals in 27 different states and provinces in North America. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions webpage for more information.
Chronic wasting disease has not been found in Washington, and there currently is no scientific evidence of CWD being transmitted from animals to humans. However, hunters who wish to take additional precautions may choose to avoid consuming the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, pancreas, or lymph nodes of harvested deer and elk, since the CWD prion accumulates in these tissues. As always, WDFW advises hunters to avoid harvesting any animal that appears sick or is behaving strangely, to wear rubber gloves while field dressing game, and to thoroughly wash hands and equipment after processing carcasses. For more information on CWD and hunting, click here.