Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Learn how you can help keep Massachusetts CWD-free.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an untreatable disease that kills cervid species like white-tailed deer and moose. While CWD has not been detected in Massachusetts, it is highly contagious and has spread rapidly across North America over the last two decades. Hunters can help prevent CWD from being introduced into Massachusetts by embracing preventative strategies and following all regulations when hunting in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Table of Contents

Prevent the spread

Dispose of harvested carcass parts properly: Limit the movement of carcass parts to reduce the risk of spreading disease pathogens to a new location. Dispose in a landfill or leave post-processing carcass remains near where the deer was harvested.

Don’t feed deer: Supplemental feeding congregates deer and increases the risk of spreading diseases like CWD.

Use synthetic scent products and avoid deer urine lure products: Urine of infected and asymptomatic deer can contain CWD-causing prions that stay in the environment for many years. “CWD-free” labels on urine-based lures may not be reliable

Learn about CWD

  • CWD is a fatal disease of the brain and nervous system caused by a misfolded protein called a prion. CWD kills cervid species including white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer, elk, caribou, and sika.
  • The prions that cause CWD are found in tissues throughout the body of infected deer, particularly in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes, as well as in feces, saliva, and urine. Prions persist in the environment for more than 15 years.
  • There is currently no evidence that CWD can infect humans, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends no one knowingly consume an infected animal.
  • Once CWD is detected, it is nearly impossible to eradicate the disease. For this reason, keeping Massachusetts CWD-free is the best strategy to avoid the loss of mature deer, particularly bucks.
  • People cannot visually determine if a deer has contracted CWD. Many deer will die before they show any signs of infection. Asymptomatic deer still spread prions into the environment.
  • It takes more than 18 months after a deer is infected with CWD before showing any signs. Deer with advanced infection may exhibit progressive weight loss, decreased social interaction, loss of awareness, and excessive salivation.

When hunting outside of Massachusetts

  • Hunters who fail to follow out-of-state requirements could unknowingly bring CWD into Massachusetts.
  • Hunters must follow all laws and regulations in the states and provinces where they hunt outside of Massachusetts.
  • Regulations in or near areas where CWD has been detected can vary significantly and change frequently as jurisdictions try to prevent the spread of CWD.
  • Follow all requirements for deer processing, disposal of carcass remains, and CWD testing. Requirements can vary state-to[1]state and even in different regions of a state.
  • It is the responsibility of the hunter to keep informed about current CWD status of any jurisdiction where they plan to hunt.

It is NOT LEGAL to import whole carcasses or high-risk parts (head, brain, spinal tissue, bones) of any member of the Cervidae family (wild or captive) into Massachusetts including, but not limited to, white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer, fallow deer, moose, caribou, or elk from any state, Canadian province, or other country where CWD has been detected. See map below.

It is LEGAL to bring in deboned meat, cleaned skull caps, hides without the head, or a fixed taxidermy mount.

CWD map

chronic wasting disease (CWD) map

Map updated in August 2023 

Surveillance and prevention

Preventing CWD from being introduced into Massachusetts is a priority for MassWildlife. The agency is involved in regional efforts to develop educational materials, share testing results, and optimize surveillance to prevent the spread of CWD across North America.

Testing: While new methods are being developed for live testing, definitive CWD tests can only be conducted on dead deer. MassWildlife biologists collects samples from a selection of deer at check stations but cannot accept tissue samples upon request for individual testing at this time. However, there are private commercial services available that charge a fee to conduct CWD testing for hunters.

Regulations: MassWildlife prevents the spread of infected deer entering Massachusetts by regulating the importation of deer harvested in other states. MassWildlife also maintains regulatory control over the captive cervid industry in Massachusetts by enforcing bans on captive white-tailed deer, elk, and caribou and by enforcing strict limits on other deer species.

Contact   for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

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