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Introduction and General Information

Translocation of animals almost inevitably includes translocation of any disease agent which they may be carrying at the time of translocation. It is important to fully assess the disease risks associated with the translocation of an animal or animals and to apply suitable diagnostic and quarantine measures to prevent translocation of disease. (B127.15.w15)

In general it is much easier to prevent the introduction of a disease into a given area than to control or eradicate a disease that has become established. (B127.10.w10)

Due to the difficulties in controlling and eliminating CWD once it has been introduced into an area or captive facility, preventing the importation of the disease into areas/facilities which are presently CWD-free is an important component of CWD management. 

  • Deer or elk farms, and zoos, which do not have, or think they do not have, CWD, should take precautions to avoid bringing any animal that is incubating the disease onto the premises.
  • Although it may not be possible to prevent free-living cervids from entering a given area, agencies responsible for management of free-living populations should consider what actions they may take to reduce the risk of CWD being imported into their area.

One of the goals of the APHIS Proposed Rule "Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Program and Interstate Movement of Captive Deer and Elk" (W30.12Jan04.CWD1) is to allow assurance for international trading partners. (P50.1.w7)

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Ways in which CWD may be introduced

Movement of Live Cervids:
  • CWD is most likely to be introduced into a premises, area or State in which it has not previously been seen by the movement of free-ranging live cervids or the importation of captive live cervids.
  • The intra-state, inter-state and inter-country movement of deer and elk, in combination with factors such as the long incubation period and the lack of a simple serological test for CWD, has contributed to the risk of introduction of the disease in new areas. (W414.10Apr03.CWD1)
    • In Canada the first recognised case, in a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus - Mule deer) at Toronto Zoo in the 1970's, was in an animal imported from Colorado, the second case, in 1996 was in an elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni - Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus elaphus - Red deer)) imported from South Dakota to a Saskatchewan game ranch in 1989 and the third case diagnosed was in an elk whose dam had been imported from South Dakota in 1989. (W43.10Apr03.w1)
    • All the transmissions of CWD from one premises to another in Canadian farms appear to have been caused by movement of live elk between farms. (W43.10Apr03.CWD4, P41.18.w1)
    • CWD in free-living deer in Saskatchewan is probably a "spillover" from the disease in farmed elk in the area. (J64.21.w17)
      • Two wild deer were identified as being infected in Saskatchewan during 2001; both came from the vicinity of captive herds known to be CWD-positive. (W43.10Apr03.CWD4)
    • Introduction of CWD to Korea occurred by the importation of live elk from Canada, from a herd which was subsequently discovered to be CWD-positive. (J27.64.w1)

Movement of Cervid Carcasses or parts of Carcasses:

  • There is an additional risk that the disease may be introduced into an areas by the importation of dead cervids or their products. (D114)

For further information on the cause of CWD, see CWD Literature Reports: Aetiology (Disease Reports),

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Measures which may be taken to reduce the risks of the importation of CWD

Precautions for Captive Cervid Facilities (e.g. Game farms, zoos):

Farms which do not have, or think they do not have, CWD, should take precautions to avoid bringing any animal that is incubating the disease onto the premises.
  • Captive facilities keeping cervids, which have not had any cases of CWD, should not allow entry of any cervids which have had direct or indirect contact with affected animals. (J64.11.w3)
  • Animals from areas in which the disease is known to occur in free-ranging populations should not be brought into captive facilities. (J64.11.w3)
  • It is suggested that at least 60 months (five years) of monitoring within a herd should have taken place before movement of animals from that herd is authorised. (D126)
  • In several States there are either voluntary or mandatory programmes for CWD surveillance before deer or elk farmers can move live deer or elk off their land.
    • In Wisconsin there is a mandatory program for monitoring CWD in deer and elk farms.(D115)
      • Farms which move live deer or elk off their premises must be enrolled in the herd monitoring program which requires individual ID number for all animals, annual reports of all births, deaths, sales and purchasing, CWD testing of all deer or elk 16 months old or older that either die or go to slaughter and annual veterinary certification that there are no signs of CWD; (D115)
      • All deer or elk 16 months old or older that either die, or are killed and any part of the carcass is to be moved off the farm, must be tested for CWD; (D115)
      • All deer harvested on shooting preserves must be tested for CWD. (D115)
  • See: Diagnosis and Surveillance (Chronic Wasting Disease Control)

Several States already restrict the importation of cervids into the State. The restrictions variously:

  • Prohibit all import of live deer or elk from outside the state.
  • Prohibit importation of live deer/elk unless they are from a herd that has been under surveillance for CWD for a stated period, generally at least five years.
    • E.g. Wisconsin prohibits import of cervids unless they are from a herd that has been under surveillance for CWD for at least five years (D115)
  • Prohibit all importation of cervids from states with CWD, or from counties with CWD or counties adjoining counties with CWD. (D120, D121)
    • E.g. in Michigan a ban on importation from a county or adjoining county where CWD has been diagnosed, and from the whole of Wisconsin. (D120)
  • "A proposed USDA program will restrict interstate movement in order to set basic minimum standards for State regulatory programs. The regulatory program provides certification status for producers who maintain herds for a minimum of five years with no evidence of the disease. Herd management plans are required for CWD positive and exposed herds. These plans include provisions for depopulation or quarantine, disposition of carcasses, decontamination, and future use of the premises. If animals are depopulated, the program provides indemnity." (D110.w3)

Recommendations for import/export of cervids from zoos:

  • The AAZV/AZA has recommended that zoos should obtain a herd history if acquiring captive deer/elk, and ideally obtain only from another AZA-accredited institution or herd that is certified as being CWD-free. Further, zoos should check with the state veterinarian's office regarding current restrictions in cervid movements. (J2.34.w1, W253.Jun03.CWD1)
  • The AAZV Infectious Disease Committee has drafted guidelines for AZA-accredited institutions [2003]. (W253.Jun03.CWD2) These include:
    • Cervids of either "high risk" species (the known CWD-susceptible species i.e. Odocoileus hemionus - Mule deer, Odocoileus virginianus - White-tailed deer, Cervus elaphus - Red deer (Cervus elaphus nelsoni and other subspecies)) or "at risk" species (other cervid species, whose susceptibility to CWD is unknown) being imported from a source which is not AZA-accredited (including any individuals originating from the wild, should:
      • Originate from facilities which are not in CWD-endemic areas (noting that the areas in which CWD is endemic may change).
      • For "high risk" species, originate from herds which have had a CWD surveillance program for five years in place without detection of CWD.
      • For "at risk" cervids and other ungulates, originate in herds which do not have a history of either CWD or undiagnosed cases of neurological or wasting disease.
      • Consider and follow state regulations/restrictions on the importation/interstate transport of cervids. 
      • Cervids obtained from free-ranging herds must originate from non-endemic areas and/or be less than 12 months old. (J2.34.w1, )
    • For transfer of cervids between AZA-accredited institutions it was noted that ongoing disease surveillance programmes, based on AZA requirements for necropsies and medical records, and provisions to exclude wildlife, may be sufficient to meet the criteria required of farmed cervids to receive "CWD accredited free herds" status. This would then be expected to allow transfer of individuals between AZA-accredited institutions. Discussions with USDA would be ongoing regarding this.
    • Movement from AZA-accredited facilities to non-accredited facilities should occur only from facilities which have documentation meeting standards required for "CWD accredited free herd" status (also the receiving facilities "should meet all institutional and AZA requirements for disposition."

    (J2.34.w1, W253.Jun03.CWD2)

Precautions for Agencies responsible for Free-living Cervids:

Although it may not be possible to prevent free-living cervids from entering a given area, agencies responsible for management of free-living population should consider what actions they may take to reduce the risk of CWD being imported into their area.

  • Animals from areas in which CWD is known to occur in free-ranging populations should not be translocated to other regions where the disease is not known to occur. (B209.17.w17, J64.11.w3, D126)
    • "Elk should not be translocated from geographic areas of populations currently known to harbor elk with CWD." The health status of source populations should be monitored by necropsy and by the use of live tests if available. (J1.37.w1)
    • Given the present uncertainty regarding the complete geographical distribution of this disease, caution is recommended if any movement of deer or elk is being considered, even if from areas in which CWD is not known to occur. (D126)
  • Free-ranging deer and elk from the endemic areas of Colorado and Wyoming are not transplanted or moved to other areas. (D108.4.w8,  D114.III.w3))
    • Exceptions may be made SOLELY for the purposes of research (D114.III.w3, D126); in such cases the cervids would be moved only to approved research facilities where CWD already exists. (D114.III.w3)

Recommendations for rehabilitation of deer:

  • In Wisconsin it has been ruled that deer cannot be transported to CWD affected counties for rehabilitation, from areas outside those counties, and that deer from CWD affected counties cannot be rehabilitated in other areas of the state.
    • For further information on recommendations for deer rehabilitation see: CWD Quarantine and Disinfection - Policy regarding rescued/rehabilitated cervids.

    (W399.21May03.CWD2, V.w50)

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International  and Inter-state IMPORT - EXPORT requirements for animals and animal products

International import-export requirements are commonly employed to minimise the risks of transmission between countries of diseases of international importance or with public health significance, particularly to avoid transmission of particular diseases into countries which are presently free of such diseases. (B21)

Methods used for the prevention and control of infectious diseases which are of international importance or have public health significance include quarantine and isolation, test and slaughter, depopulation of a herd or of an animal species within a specified area, disinfection of premises, vehicles, equipment etc. and vaccination of susceptible animals. (B21)

Export Restrictions:

Export restrictions are most appropriate for states which have endemic CWD.

  • Translocation of cervids from endemic areas has been banned; this should continue. (J40.66.w1, P10.67.w1, D118)
  • Wyoming will not allow movement of live deer or elk out of the CWD-endemic zone, "except as required for research and only to approved research facilities where CWD already exists. No live deer or elk will be transplanted from the CWD zone for any purpose other than research." (D114.III.w3)

Import Restrictions:

Import restrictions are particularly appropriate for states which believe they are presently free of CWD but may also be put in place by states which already have the disease in captive and/or free-ranging populations.

Standard regulations already exist for importation of cervids into individual states within the USA. These include a health certificate (Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or CVI), a import permit and negative tests for tuberculosis and brucellosis within 30-60 days of import. Additional regulations are in place in 49 States [2002 data]. Such additional regulations vary between states and range from additional testing requirements to a total ban on importation of cervids. All cervid imports have been banned by 17 states. In 29 States, importation of cervids from "any county, region, and/or State that is endemic for CWD" is banned, and there is a requirement that "the State exporting the cervid be enrolled in an official CWD monitoring and certification program;" and/or "only that there has been no diagnosis of CWD in the originating herd or imported cervid." (D110.w4)

State-by-State summary information on regulations and activities related to CWD are provided in: Document Ref. 110 - Plan for Assisting States, Federal Agencies, and Tribes in Managing Chronic Wasting Disease in Wild and Captive Cervids (Available in full)

Examples of State import restrictions:

  • In Wyoming: "Any captive cervid imported into Wyoming must originate from facilities certified to be free of CWD for the five years previous to the requested date of importation. This restriction is intended to prevent spread of CWD. There is no captive, commercial elk or deer farm within the CWD zone, and future establishment of captive, commercial facilities within the CWD zone or elsewhere in Wyoming will not be permitted." It is noted that the only elk farm permitted in Wyoming by statute is outside the CWD endemic zone. (D114.III.w3)
  • In Illinois: In 2002 emergency rules were filed banning importation of captive deer or elk into the state. Additionally for movement within the state a permit would be required and animals to be moved would have to come from herds enrolled in a monitored herd program for CWD. (W411.11Apr03.CWD5)

The APHIS  Proposed Rule "Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Program and Interstate Movement of Captive Deer and Elk" sets out in detail the intended herd certification program and interstate movement requirements for captive deer and elk. This aims "to eliminate CWD from the captive deer and elk herds in the United States." (W30.12Jan04.CWD1)

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Recommended "Best Practice" for Deer and Elk Carcass Movement

High levels of infectivity appear to accumulate in specific organs and body parts of infected animals, therefore recommendations or regulations on movement and disposal of carcasses should be considered. (D126)

Regulations associated with the movement of deer and elk carcasses vary between States and the regulations for a particular State within and/or into which the carcass is to be moved should be consulted.

In general precautionary measures that may be taken to reduce the risk of transporting CWD infectivity into a new area by importation of cervids or their products is to avoid transporting those parts of the carcass that are most likely to contain infectivity. (D118)

  • The head (brain, eyes, tonsils, various lymph nodes), spinal cord, spleen and various lymph nodes in the body are most likely to contain infectivity (J40.66.w1, D118, W402.24Mar03.CWD1) and transport of these, particularly from  CWD-endemic areas, should be avoided. (D118)
  • Parts of the carcass which it is generally considered may be transported with minimal risk of transporting CWD infectivity include: cut and wrapped meat, boneless meat, hides (without the head attached), upper canine teeth, antlers (if skull plates are to remain attached to the antlers these should be cleaned and disinfected before transportation) and finished taxidermy heads. (D114.III.w3, W402.24Mar03.CWD1, W411.26Mar03.CWD3, W425.27Mar03.CWD5)

The following are examples of regulations or recommendations for some states:

  • The recommendation from Wyoming Game & Fish (W425) is: "that hunters transport only the following items from the area where CWD is known to exist: cut and wrapped meat, boned meat, animal quarters or other pieces with no portion of the spinal column or head attached, hides without the head, cleaned (no meat or other tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached, antlers with no meat or other tissue attached." (D114.III.w3, W425.27Mar03.CWD5)
    • It was noted that "Nothing in these recommendations allows the hunter to remove evidence of sex and species as required in regulation. In areas where proof of sex is required, hunters should leave an external sex organ naturally attached to an edible portion. In areas where proof of deer species is required, hunters should leave the tail naturally attached to an edible portion." (W425.27Mar03.CWD5)
  • Minnesota DNR (W414) recommends that hunters "avoid bringing back whole carcasses from animals harvested in other states. The safest way to transport carcasses is to bring back only cut and wrapped meat, boneless meat, hides, and antlers or cleaned skull plates." (D122)
  • In Illinois new regulations have prohibited importation of hunter-harvested deer and elk carcasses into Illinois "except for deboned meat, antlers, antlers attached to skull caps, hides, upper canine teeth (also known as "buglers", "whistlers" or "ivories", and finished taxidermists mounts. Skull caps shall be cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue." (W411.26Mar03.CWD3)
  • In Michigan, if a single CWD-infected index case is discovered, whether free-ranging or privately owned/captive, only boned meat, capes and antlers will be allowed to be removed from the 15-mile radius surveillance zone around each index case. (D119)
  • In Colorado transportation of deer or elk carcasses out of the CWD-established area, or from "any specific area of the United States or any other country in which there has been a diagnosis of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the wild" has been prohibited with the exception of:
    • "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 "buglers", "whistlers", or "ivories".
    • 8. Finished taxidermy heads."

    (W402.24Mar03.CWD2)

  • In Utah, import of "dead elk, mule deer, or white-tailed deer or their parts" from designated infected areas of other states (listed on the website) has been prohibited except for meat that is cut and wrapped either commercially or privately, quarters or other portion of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; meat that is boned out, hides with no heads attached, skulls plates with antlers attached that have been cleaned of all meat and tissue, antlers with no meat or tissue attached, upper canine teeth known as buglers, whistlers or ivories and finished taxidermy heads. (W422.16Jan04.CWD2)

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Further research

For effective management of CWD it will be necessary to develop a better understanding of this disease, including:
  • The present distribution and prevalence of CWD; (D114.V.w5)
  • The effects of animal movement and behaviour on CWD transmission and spatial distribution. (D117)
  • The role of environmental contamination in maintaining CWD in free-ranging populations; (D114.V.w5, D117)
  • The effects of intensive culling on dispersal of cervids. (D118)

N.B. Results of research must be distributed effectively if they are to be of benefit to agencies responsible for disease management. See: CWD CONTROL: Education and Communication for Chronic Wasting Disease (Overview of Techniques)

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Authors & Referees

Authors Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee Suzanne I Boardman BVMS MRCVS (V.w6), Chris Brand (V.w52), Dr Terry Kreeger (V.w49), Dr Julie Langenberg (V.w50), Bruce Morrison (V.w48), Michael Samuel (V.w53), Scott Wright (V.w54)

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