No evidence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in Massachusetts deer based on data gathered during the 2005 hunting season. MassWildlife recently received results from a federally certified veterinary diagnostic laboratory that indicate that all the deer brain, lymph node, and tonsil samples taken during last fall’s hunting season tested negative for the disease. During the fall 2005 deer hunting season, MassWildlife collected 577 samples from hunter-harvested, roadkilled and targeted deer across the state for CWD testing.

This was the fourth year of sampling in Massachusetts as part of a nationwide CWD monitoring and surveillance program. Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disorder known to affect white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. The World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD. CWD was first identified in the late 1960’s in Colorado and remained located in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska for over two decades. In the past decade, states in which CWD was more recently found include: Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin; plus Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. In 2005, deer in New York and West Virginia tested positive for CWD. These were the first instances of the disease detected in the northeastern United States.

As responsible stewards for all native wildlife in the state, MassWildlife has implemented strict regulations to prevent the disease from entering the Bay State and affecting the health of both wild and captive deer populations. It is unlawful to import all species of live deer including European red deer, sika deer, fallow deer and reindeer, all species commonly raised commercially. Last fall, in response to the presence of CWD in New York, regulations were passed by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board that make it illegal for anyone to import, process or possess whole carcasses or parts of deer or elk (from wild or captive deer herds) from states and Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected. The only exceptions to the regulation are: meat that is deboned, cleaned skull caps, hides and finished taxidermy mounts. By restricting importation to these specific deer parts, the importation of neurological tissue –which is where the disease-causing prions are located — is prevented, yet sportsmen and sportswomen hunting in states with CWD can still safely use the deer they harvest. For more information regarding CWD and actions taken by MassWildlife, click on the Wildlife button at www.mass.gov/masswildlife . For national CWD information, visit the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website at www.cwd-info.org.