Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) In Maryland
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 11,592 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, 133 infected deer have been documented in the state.
In Allegany County, sixty-six of the deer originated in Harvest Management Unit 233, including three on Billmeyer Wildlife Management Area, twenty-two on Green Ridge State Forest, and one on Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area. Twenty-two positive deer have been detected in Allegany County Harvest Management Unit 231 near Cumberland, and eight have been detected in Harvest Management Unit 232, including one on Warrior Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
In Washington County, twenty-two positive deer have been detected in Harvest Management Unit 250, including three on Woodmont Natural Resources Management Area and one on Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area. Ten positive deer have been found in Washington County Harvest Management Unit 251, including one on Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area. Five have been found in Harvest Management Unit 252.
Number of White-tailed Deer that have Tested Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease by Harvest Management Unit (HMU) in Maryland, 2010 – 2021.
* White-tailed deer harvested on public lands are included in the appropriate private land HMU code.
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.
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.
Due to the detection of CWD in Allegany and Washington counties, the department has created a Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area (CWDMA) to help slow the spread of the disease. The current CWDMA (see map below) consists of all public and private lands in Allegany and Washington counties. Currently, whole deer carcasses cannot be transported out of the CWDMA unless they are transported to an approved processor or taxidermist (see below).
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.
- B&B Country Meats, Frostburg, MD, 301-689-6225
- B&B Butchering, Orleans, MD, 301-478-2558
- Banzhoff’s Custom Butchering, Williamsport, 301-223-9326
- Ernst Market, Clear Spring, MD, 301-842-2292
- Holsinger's Meats and Deli, Maugansville, MD, 301-733-9263
- Leitersburg Butcher Shop, Hagerstown, MD, 301-491-9911
- Mountain Trail Butchers, Clear Spring, 301-842-1407
- Sunnyland/Ray Burger's Meats, Williamsport, MD, 301-223-9637
- Wolford’s Meat Shop, Big Pool, 301-842-3156
- Clint’s Cuts, Mt. Airy, 301-865-5120
- KD Deer Processing, Frederick, 240-285-6143
- Pry's Deer Processing, Knoxville, 301-834-8752
- Rob’s Deer Shop, Rocky Ridge, 301-271-7780
- Wolfe's Deer Shop, Thurmont, MD, 240-549-2613
- Brian McKinley, Cumberland, 240-580-4148
- Donnie Burley, Cumberland, 301-707-6272
- Richard Kroll, Barton, 301-359-5010
- Robert Friend, Westernport, 301-359-9784
- Steven Fairgrieve, Barton, 301-707-9261
- Draper's Taxidermy, Fairplay, 301-582-3173
- Fairview Wildlife Studio, Hagerstown, 301-791-1568
- Kaetzel's Taxidermy, Smithsburg, 301-667-2495
- Kline’s Taxidermy, Smithsburg, 301-416-0201
- Martin's Taxidermy Studio, Boonsboro, 301-432-5909
- Millstone Taxidermy, Hancock, 240-520-7226
- Mountin' Man Taxidermy, Knoxville, MD, 301-834-5197
- Quirauk Mountain Skull Works, Cascade, 301-331-6916
- South Mountain Taxidermy, Boonsboro, 301-432-6006
- Baker Taxidermy, Frederick, 240-674-2752
- Brian Keane Taxidermy, Frederick, 301-682-9210
- Carder's Taxidermy, Ijamsville, 240-674-9146
- Geisinger Taxidermy, Thurmont, 301-271-0501
- Natalie's Taxidermy, Myersville, 240-315-3471
- Roger's Taxidermy, Thurmont, 301-606-7015
- Young's Wildlife, Frederick, 301-788-3860
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.
2022 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 301-334-4255 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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 by calling 410-260-8540. You can also help by cooperating if department staff ask permission to collect brain tissue samples from deer you harvested.