Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) In Maryland

Maryland Deer Hunters' Attitudes Toward Chronic Wasting Disease

Ten Deer Test Positive

Maryland’s Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan


What is CWD?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease of deer, moose and elk, including white-tailed deer and mule deer. The disease causes degeneration of the brain and eventual death. In the early stages of the disease, an infected animal may not show any signs that it is sick. As the disease progresses, animals will show signs of weight loss, generally accompanied by behavioral changes. In later stages, affected animals may show emaciation, excessive drooling, increased drinking and urination, listlessness, stumbling, trembling, loss of fear of humans and nervousness.

CWD is not caused by a bacteria or virus. It is classified as a prion disease. A prion is an altered protein that causes other normal proteins to change and cause sponge-like holes in the brain. CWD is related to, but different from, scrapie in sheep, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle and Creutzfelt-Jacob Disease (CJD) in humans. These diseases also attack the brain and cause deterioration and eventual death. CWD was first identified in the 1960s in a Colorado research facility and since that time has been found in multiple states and Canadian provinces. It is unknown whether sika deer are susceptible to CWD.

CWD appears to be passed between animals via saliva and possibly feces and urine. Animals can also become infected through direct contact with an environment (i.e., soils) that is contaminated with the prions. At this time it is unclear whether transmission between females and their fetuses (maternal transmission) can occur. CWD may be transmitted more readily within overpopulated herds and at feeding stations where direct physical contact among individuals is more likely. There is currently no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans. Public health officials recommend that human exposure to CWD be avoided and recommend not consuming venison from infected deer. There are basic precautions, outlined below, that hunters should take to minimize any risk associated with CWD.

Status of CWD in Maryland

The Department of Natural Resources has tested over 9,500 deer for CWD since 1999. The disease was detected for the first time in Maryland from a deer taken by a hunter in November 2010. To date, 27 infected deer have been documented in Maryland. Twenty of those samples originated from Allegany County Harvest Management Unit 233 including one on Billmeyer Wildlife Management Area and Green Ridge State Forest. Three have been detected in Allegany County Harvest Management Unit 231 near Cumberland, while four have now been detected in Washington County Harvest Management Unit 250.

The department has been testing deer for CWD with increasing intensity since 1999. Initially, only deer that appeared to have classic CWD symptoms were tested. Beginning in 2002, the department began more intensive sampling and collected samples from deer in all counties of the state. In 2010, sampling efforts were focused on Allegany and western Washington counties due to the presence of positive cases in nearby West Virginia and Virginia. West Virginia first detected CWD in Hampshire County in 2005 and it was found in Frederick County, Virginia in early 2010. Pennsylvania documented a deer positive for CWD in 2012.

Sampling is conducted on road-kills and deer brought by hunters to cooperating deer processors. Staff remove the brain stem and certain lymph nodes and those tissues are sent to a laboratory for testing. Any samples that test positive by the first lab are then sent to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories for confirmation. This testing takes several months to complete. Positive samples are traced back to the hunter that harvested the deer and the department works with that hunter to determine the exact location where the animal was taken.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, and the United States Department of Agriculture are integral partners in all CWD surveillance plans to assist in monitoring wild deer populations, protect domestic animals and preserve human health.

Deer Hunters and CWD

Concerns over CWD should not stop hunters from enjoying the hunting season or any venison they may acquire. CWD has not been shown to be transmissible to humans. However, it is recommended that hunters field-dressing or butchering deer should take the same precautions as they would to protect against other pathogens or diseases. It is also recommended to not consume venison from infected deer. The following common-sense precautionary measures are recommended for the safe handling, field-dressing and home processing of venison:

  • Avoid shooting or handling a deer that appears sick.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing or butchering deer.
  • Remove all internal organs.
  • Remove the meat from the bones and spinal column if home processing a deer
  • Do not use household knives or utensils when field-dressing or home processing a deer.
  • Avoid cutting through bones or the spinal column (backbone).
  • If you saw off antlers or through a bone, or if you sever the spinal column with a knife, be sure to disinfect these tools prior to using them for the butchering or removal of meat.
  • Always wash hands and instruments thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.
  • Use a 50/50 solution of household chlorine bleach and water to disinfect tools and work surfaces. Wipe down counters and let them dry; soak knives for one hour.


Deer Urine Lures and CWD

Recent research has shown that deer urine can contain infected prions. Until more is known about whether commercial deer lures pose a realistic risk of spreading CWD, we recommend that hunters use caution when placing natural urine-based lures in the environment and suggest the following:

  • Whenever possible, avoid using natural urine lures and instead use synthetic lures. Research has shown synthetic lures to be as effective as natural lures.
  • Hunters should avoid placing deer lures on the ground or on vegetation where deer can come into contact with them. Deer lures can be safely placed above deer height, yet still allow air currents to disperse the scent and attract deer.
  • Hunters should not place urine-based lures on their skin or clothing.


CWD Management

Due to the detection of CWD in Allegany County, the department has implemented several regulations to limit the spread of this disease to other portions of Maryland or nearby states. One important step was to establish a CWD Management Area (CWDMA). The regulations are focused on the CWDMA with the goal to contain the disease within this area to the best of our ability. The current CWDMA (see map below) consists of Harvest Management Units (Private Land Codes) 230, 231, 232, 233, 234 in Allegany County and 250 in western Washington County. There are also carcass transport restrictions within the CWDMA. The transport restrictions apply only to the CWDMA designated on the map below, regardless of whether the deer was taken on private or public land.

Whole deer carcasses or deer parts cannot be transported out of the CWDMA, except for:

  • Meat with no part of the spinal column, backbone, or head attached, 
  • Hind quarters and front shoulders with no spinal column or backbone attached, (hunters MUST have checked in their deer and obtained a confirmation number in order to transport a quartered deer)
  • Cleaned hide with no head attached,
  • Skull plate cleaned of all meat and brain tissue,
  • Antlers with no meat or soft tissue attached,
  • Finished taxidermy mounts or tanned hides,
  • Whole deer carcasses or parts being transported directly to the meat processors or taxidermists listed below, or to the landfill located within Allegany or Washington County.
  • Currently, the following taxidermists and meat processors are approved to prepare or process deer carcasses or deer parts taken from within Maryland’s CWDMA. This provision provides an opportunity for hunters harvesting deer within Maryland’s CWDMA to transport carcasses or other deer parts directly to one of these approved businesses for meat processing, taxidermy services or for preparation for transport to another taxidermist.

If you choose to quarter your deer in the field, it is permissible to leave the carcass remains at the kill site when hunting on Department of Natural Resources public lands. Hunters should obtain permission when hunting on private lands. Whenever possible, the department encourages hunters to bag the remains and dispose of them in a landfill. It is not permissible to leave or dispose of carcass remains in public parking areas, along roadways or near other public use areas.


Meats Processors

B&B Country Meats, Frostburg, MD, 301-689-6225

B&B Butchering, Orleans, MD, 301-478-2558

Ernst Market, Clear Spring, MD, 301-842-2292

Holsinger's Meats and Deli, Maugansville, MD 301-733-9262

Snurr Bonez Wild Game Processing, Cumberland, MD, 301-777-0450

Sunnyland/Ray Burger's Meats, Williamsport, MD, 301-223-9637

Wolfe's Deer Shop, Thurmont, MD, 240-549-2613


Taxidermists

Allegany County – Donnie Burley, Cumberland, MD, 301-707-6272

Allegany County – Steven Fairgrieve, Barton, MD, 301-707-9261

Allegany County – Robert Friend, Westernport, MD, 301-359-9784

Allegany County – Richard Kroll, Barton, MD 301-359-5010

Allegany County – Brian McKinley, Cumberland, MD, 240-580-4148

Frederick County - Kline's Taxidermy, Smithsburg, MD, 301-416-0201

Frederick County - Geisinger Taxidermy, Thurmont, MD, 301-271-0501

Washington County - Fairview Wildlife Studio, Hagerstown, MD, 301-791-1568

Washington County - Millstone Taxidermy, Hancock, MD, 240-520-7226

Please note: Due to the significant enlargement of the CWDMA, dumpsters will no longer be furnished for carcass disposal. Carcasses can either be quartered in the field, taken to an approved processor or taxidermist listed above, or disposed of at the Allegany or Washington County landfill for a fee. Whole carcasses are still permitted to be transported freely about within the CWDMA to private residences, hunting camps, etc.

Please also check the department website for updates on CWD surveillance and management in Maryland. Hunter assistance and cooperation is essential to the department’s efforts to monitor and manage CWD in Maryland.

2018 Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area(Outlined in Red)

2016 Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area map 

Carcass Importation Ban

The primary objective in the management of CWD is to prevent or slow its spread into new areas. One possible mode of disease transmission is by the movement and disposal of infected carcasses. In an effort to minimize the risk for disease spread, Maryland, along with many other states, has adopted regulations that prohibit the importation of whole carcasses and certain carcass parts of deer, moose and elk harvested from states that have CWD.

A person may bring only the following parts of a dead deer, elk, or moose into Maryland from another state or province’s designated CWD containment, surveillance, or management area: (1) meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; (2) hind quarters and front shoulders with no spinal column or backbone attached; (3) meat without backbone; (4) cleaned hide with no head attached; (5) skull plate cleaned of all meat and brain tissue; (6) antlers with no meat or soft tissue attached; (7) upper canine teeth, also known as buglers, whistlers, or ivories; and (8) finished taxidermy mounts or tanned hides. 

Importation of whole deer, elk, moose or other cervid carcasses is prohibited from CWD positive areas identified within the states and provinces listed in the link below. To get the latest information on CWD positive areas in any of these states or provinces call the number listed or go to www.cwd-info.org.

Any person who imports or possesses a cervid carcass or part of a cervid that was tested for chronic wasting disease in another state or province and is notified that the cervid tested positive, must report the test results to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources within 24 hours of receiving such notification- by telephone at 301-842-0332; or by FAX 301-842-1026; or by email to brian.eyler@maryland.gov.

Travelers may pass through Maryland with cervid carcasses, provided that no parts are disposed of or remain in the state.

If you hunt deer, elk, moose or other cervids in other states and/or provinces, particularly those in which CWD has been detected, check with the respective fish and wildlife agencies regarding special regulations or specific advice for hunters. Also check with your home state fish and wildlife agency to ensure that animals lawfully killed elsewhere may be imported and possessed in your state. Additional information can be found at the CWD Alliance website www.cwd-info.org.

Taking Deer Carcasses out of Maryland

Because Maryland is considered a CWD positive state, deer hunters must follow carcass importation regulations in other states when they transport a deer carcass out of Maryland (see www.cwd-info.org).

The surrounding states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia each have specific regulations as to whether they will allow whole deer carcasses or only parts of carcasses to enter from Maryland. Likewise, the regulations for each of these states vary as to whether they apply to deer from anywhere in Maryland, or just to deer taken within the CWDMA. Hunters are strongly encouraged to check state regulations before transporting deer carcasses.

Travelers may pass through Maryland with cervid carcasses, provided that no parts are disposed of or remain in the state.

How You Can Help

You can help by reporting any deer that are emaciated, unhealthy or acting abnormally to the department's toll free number 1-877-620-8367 (ext. 8540). You can also help by cooperating if department staff ask permission to collect brain tissue samples from deer you harvested.