NDOW steps up sampling and education on CWD | NevadaAppeal.com

NDOW steps up sampling and education on CWD

Don Quilici

Currently, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been detected in Nevada, and state wildlife officials are urging residents, heading out of state to hunt deer and elk, to process their game before bringing it back home to reduce the risk of introducing the disease into the state.

“We are working with Nevada hunters to inform them about affected areas and to ask them to take preventive actions to keep our deer and elk disease free,” said Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW) Game Bureau Chief Gregg Tanner.

CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that is found in deer and elk.

It is believed to be caused by a mutated protein, called a prion, that attaches to, and transforms healthy brain proteins into disfigured mutations that lead to a deterioration of the brain, and ultimately death of the animal.

CWD is similar to but different from Scrapie (A disease found in domestic sheep), Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (also referred to as “Mad Cow” disease) and Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (a TSE found in humans).

While similar to these diseases, there is no known causal link between CWD and other TSE’s of animals or people.

There is currently no evidence to indicate that CWD can be transmitted from elk and deer to livestock or humans.

To date, CWD has been identified in parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma and Kansas in the United States, and in Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada.

In many of these areas, CWD was first identified in animals found in captive elk or deer game farms.

Nevada law prohibits establishment of captive mule or white-tailed deer farms, and would require rigorous testing by the Nevada State Department of Agriculture before any captive elk farms could be established.

Currently, there are no commercial deer or elk farms in the state.

In addition to requesting that hunters take precautionary measures when returning home with harvested deer or elk from other states, NDOW is also taking a number of other actions to ensure the state’s herds remain disease free: a direct mailing targeted to residents who hunt in affected areas; a direct mailing to taxidermists, processors and guides; and brochures on the disease will be distributed statewide.

Several voluntary check stations are also planned this fall in hunt areas to inform hunters and to collect additional deer and elk samples.

NDOW has collected 335 deer samples to date and 102 elk samples, and none have been positive to CWD.

The sampling will continue this year in an effort to collect at least 500 samples from each species, and to confirm that the state remains disease free.

“We are increasing our sampling effort to confirm that our deer and elk populations remain disease free,” said Tanner. “We would appreciate hunters voluntary compliance with the sampling, which will take about 20 minutes. It is essential that we stick with our sampling effort and remain vigilant.”

It is not definitively known how CWD spreads, however it appears that the disease may be transmitted through saliva, urine and feces.

This can occur either directly from animal to animal contact or indirectly, through soil or forage that is contaminated by body fluids.

Current research indicated that the prion does not accumulate in muscle tissue, but does collect in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen of infected animals.

Pressurized heat is the only method thus far found to kill the prion.

Nevada Division of Wildlife is strongly encouraging any hunters planning to hunt in other states’ affected areas to call ahead to find out what state carcass transportation regulations may be in effect.

As a precaution against the possible spread of CWD, Colorado wildlife officials have established carcass transportation regulations for infected areas of Northeast Colorado.

The Colorado regulations state that “only the following carcass parts may be transported” out of the infected units in Northeastern Colorado or brought into any part of Colorado from infected areas in other states:

1. Meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately).

2. Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.

3. Meat that has been boned out.

4. Hides with no heads attached.

5. Clean (no meat or tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached.

6. Antlers with no meat or tissue attached.

7. Upper canine teeth, also known as “Bugler,” “Whistlers” or “Ivories.”

8. Finished mounts.


Nevada hunters can expect to encounter voluntary education and sampling checkpoints this fall, as NDOW biologists and wardens will be attempting to gather up to 500 elk samples and another 200 deer samples.

The sampling will voluntary as it requires removal of the brain stem.

At this date, check stations are scheduled in the following areas:


Oct. 6-7: Ash Springs and Alamo area, along U.S. 93.

Dec. 7-9: Near Eagle Valley State Park.

Biologists, wardens and personnel from the Dept. of Agriculture will visit meat lockers and game processing plants in Southern Nevada to request brain samples as well.


Oct. 6-7: Grimes Point, east of Fallon, along U.S. 50.

Nov. 2-3: Gerlach and along U.S. 95, north of Winnemucca.

Biologist and game wardens will patrol hunting areas in Western Nevada during deer rifle seasons to collect samples as well.


Throughout October and November, small crews of biologists and volunteers will frequent commonly used access routes throughout Northeastern Nevada to collect samples.

The Elko regional office (60 Youth Center Road) will have staff available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., during the deer and elk seasons to take samples brought in by hunters who wish to participate in the sampling effort.

Call (775) 777-2300 in advance if you are bringing an animal in for testing to this location.

Staff will also visit Northeastern Nevada meat lockers and game processing plants to take samples.


If you process your deer or elk yourself, NDOW recommends the following safety precautions:

1. Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing the animal.

2. Be aware of animal abnormalities.

3. Minimize handling of brain and spinal tissues.

4. De-bone all meat and don’t cut through or puncture the spinal column, brain, tonsils or spleen. If you accidentally cut into any of these, sanitize your blade with a bleach solution.

5. Do not eat brain, spinal cord, eyes spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals.

6. Thoroughly cook the meat.

7. Request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to your process meat.

If you have any questions, contact the NDOW Headquarters Office at 688-1500 or the State Veterinarian’s Office at 688-1180, ext. 261.