WDFW expands testing for chronic wasting disease


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News release

Dr. Melia DeVivo, Wildlife Program, 509-795-4421           
Staci Lehman, Communications, 509-710-4511

SPOKANE – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is expanding its chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program in eastern Washington’s Region 1, which encompasses Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman counties.

During this year’s modern general deer season, WDFW staff will be taking samples from harvested deer and elk at voluntary check stations in both northeast and southeast Washington, as well as talking with hunters and answering questions they may have about CWD.

CWD is a fatal illness of cervids, which include deer, elk, moose, and caribou. It is caused by mutated proteins known as prions, which can contaminate the environment and be transmitted between animals through feces, saliva, urine, and other bodily fluids.

"While disease sampling is voluntary, we encourage hunters to have their deer or elk tested because most animals with CWD appear normal until the end stages of the disease,” said ungulate research scientist Dr. Melia DeVivo. “Without testing, animals infected with CWD could go undetected for months to years, spreading the disease to other animals”

A list of eight voluntary hunter check stations is available on the WDFW website. There is also information there for hunters who prefer to remove and submit deer and elk lymph nodes themselves for testing. In addition, hunters can fill out the online form to set up an appointment with WDFW staff or call the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council to have volunteers there collect a CWD sample.
While CWD has not been detected in Washington, it has been detected in 30 U.S. states- the closest being Idaho- and four Canadian provinces. 

“We know that eastern Washington is a popular place for deer hunting, with hunters from all over the state coming here,” DeVivo said. “With Idaho being just across the border from where many people hunt, it is important that we test deer and elk to make sure CWD is not spreading to Washington.”

WDFW reminds those who hunt other states that Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 220-413-030 has been updated to restrict the importation of certain parts of deer, elk, moose, or caribou harvested outside of Washington, regardless of whether CWD has been detected in the state, province, or country of origin. Only the following items may be imported into Washington:

  • Meat that has been de-boned in the state or province where it was harvested and is imported as boned-out meat
  • Skulls and antlers (with velvet removed), antlers attached to the skull plate, or upper canine teeth (bugler, whistlers, ivories) from which all soft tissue has been removed
  • Hides or capes without heads attached
  • Tissue imported for use by a diagnostic or research laboratory
  • Finished taxidermy mounts

Violation of this rule is a gross misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine or one year in jail (RCW 77.15.290).

There is extensive information on CWD, steps to slow its spread, and safety tips for humans handling carcasses on the WDFW website.

WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Individuals who need to receive this information in an alternative format, language, or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact the Civil Rights Coordinator by phone at 360-902-2349, TTY (711), or email (Title6@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation.