Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal brain disease of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and potentially woodland caribou. It is also rarely found in moose. It is present in deer and elk in Alberta, Saskatchewan and several U.S. states. It has not yet been found in Ontario.

CWD is thought to be spread by close contact between animals. The appearance of symptoms, which include poor body condition, tremors, stumbling, increased salivation, difficulty swallowing, and excessive thirst or urination, can be delayed anywhere from months to years after an animal is infected.

The OFAH has long fought for the closure of deer farms for elk and deer as a primary method of spreading the disease into the wild population. 

There is currently no scientific evidence that CWD can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating meat from infected animals, however public health officials encourage hunters not to consume meat from CWD-infected animals. Hunters are further encouraged to take precautions when field dressing and processing deer and elk to protect themselves against diseases and parasites.

NEW from MNRF Wildlife Research Section - A history of CWD surveillance in Ontario

Hunter Assistance requested for annual MNR Sampling Program 

Every fall, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) conducts a CWD surveillance program, which seeks the assistance of deer hunters within designated Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) that rotate annually. Crews of MNR wildlife research technicians canvas the surveillance areas and visit local hunt camps. Hunters are asked to provide a small amount of tissue from the harvested deer for analysis. 

Most sampling is done during the firearms hunt. Hunters missed by the roving crews may take the head of their yearling or older deer (no fawns) for deposit in an MNR freezer at a designated depot. Depots typically open between September and October, and close in December, unless target numbers are reached earlier. Results of the tissue sampling are posted online, and participating hunters are provided with a reference number to check the status of their deer. 

For more information regarding the sampling program, view the list of CWD freezer depot locations, or check lab results, visit


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