Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

By Colonel Mike Abell


Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always-fatal disease

found in a familiar family of animals called cervids. Cervids are

very simply – mammals of the deer family or scientifically classified

into the family Cervidae. To date, it has been found in wild

or captive cervids in 25 states and 3 Canadian provinces but not

yet in Kentucky. It can be transmitted through animal to animal

contact, contact with body fluids or feces left on the landscape,

contact with an animal carcass left on the landscape, and indirectly

through soil contaminated by any of the above.

It is not caused by a virus or bacteria, but by an irregularly

formed protein prion. The prions are very hard to destroy and

can survive on the landscape for years. The prion infection also

takes years to kill the animal by causing healthy protein prions

already in the animal to become irregularly formed. The irregularly

formed prions attack the nervous system of an infected animal,

which animal then becomes a vector of the disease for a

number of years before it succumbs to CWD. The infected deer

or elk do not become visually symptomatic for at least two

years, which is why this disease is problematic to hunters. It

would be very easy for one to kill an infected deer or elk and

have no idea it is infected because they show no outward signs

of the disease.

CWD has not been shown to infect humans. There have

been national cases where large groups of people have eaten

CWD infected deer. They are being monitored for the disease

and so far they are not infected. Notwithstanding those results,

if you are hunting in a CWD infected area, experts advise you to

have the deer or elk tested prior to eating it. The disease was

first discovered in a captive mule deer facility run by the Colorado

Division of Wildlife Research in Fort Collins in 1967. Researchers

have been working on a cure ever since and they are making

progress. There have been many false claims and internet

hoaxes about a cure, but to date there is not one. Currently the

best defense is prevention.

Position paper published on the Legislation Action website:

Before we discuss deer hunting, we must discuss the overall

importance of hunting in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Hunting

is a significant portion of our heritage and culture. President

Theodore Roosevelt spoke of the “democracy of hunting,” which

meant that any American, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity,

economic class or profession can hunt and hunt successfully. We

believe hunting is one of the last cords that bind our urban and

rural populations to the natural world around us. Hunting is also

a major economic driver for the Commonwealth, with an overall

annual economic impact of approximately $1.5 billion-dollars.

Deer hunting in particular has a $770 million dollar annual economic

impact on the Commonwealth.

These facts cannot be understated and must be always preeminent

in our minds as we discuss the future of hunting in the


Our natural environment now includes the reality of Chronic

Wasting Disease (CWD). This position statement is not meant to

educate the reader on what CWD is but to publicly state the position

of the Kentuckiana

Chapter of Safari Club International

(KYSCI) on

hunting in a CWD environment.

Anyone who

wishes to become more

educated on exactly what

CWD is can do so at KYSCI

believes that all future

decisions about our deer

and elk herds must be

made in the context of

our hunting heritage, the

hunting economy and CWD. All three should carry equal weight

during the decision-making process, but they must each be underpinned

by scientific evidence and robust public comment. The