Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a highly contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. CWD is progressive with symptoms that range from asymptomatic to listlessness, ear droop, altered gait, excessive salivation, teeth grinding, a wasting body composition, and ultimately death. It is thought to be transmitted through body fluids and contaminated soil, food, and water.
First detected in captive deer facilities in the late 1960’s, CWD spread to free ranging, wild herds by 1981. As of April 2022, CWD has been identified in 29 U.S. states, 4 Canadian provinces, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and South Korea.
Positive cases of chronic wasting disease are on the rise and studies have shown that CWD can remain in the environment for years. CWD can be detrimental to food security, cultural and spiritual practices, and economic well-being. Surveillance on Tribal lands is crucial for managing the impacts and spread.
The Native American Fish & Wildlife Society recognizes the threat of CWD to Tribal lands and their citizens. In 2021, NAFWS developed the Chronic Wasting Disease Project to aid Tribal natural resources personnel to manage CWD on Tribal lands. NAFWS staff hosted an informational webinar, in-person trainings at regional and national conferences, and developed a brochure for Tribes to use to educate their citizens.
With funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), NAFWS provided technical support, educational materials, trainings, and sampling kits and laboratory testing for 10 CWD samples from 50 Tribes in the lower 48 states. Sign up for this project has ended.