Chronic Wasting Disease

It's always good to make sure you know what you're getting into when you start a hunt in a unit with CWD.  For your convenience.  Every unit page, under Statistics has a row that states whether CWD is present in that Game Management Unit. 

Below you'll find the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Information on CWD and what it means to you as a hunter.

How it Affects your Hunt and What to Do

What is It?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that affects some big-game animals.

The disease attacks the brains of free-ranging and captive deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and uncoordination, and eventually die. Infected animals can show no signs of illness throughout much of the disease.

Where is It?

CWD has been found in parts of this state and several other states and provinces. In Colorado, infection rates appear higher in males and older animals.

As a result of testing, CWD has been detected in units 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 33, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 51, 59, 69, 84, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 107, 109, 131, 161, 171, 181, 191, 211, 214, 231, 301, 361, 371, 391, 421, 441, 461, 521, 591, 951. These units are highlighted on the map on the opposite page.

Surveillance summaries also are posted on the CPW website.

Precautions to Follow

CWD is not likely transmissible to humans, according to state and federal health experts.

However, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and CPW advise hunters to take simple precautions when handling carcasses of deer, elk and moose from units where the disease has been detected.

» Do not shoot, handle or consume animals that appear sick.

» Wear rubber gloves when field dressing and processing animals.

» Minimize handling brain, spinal and lymphatic tissues.

» Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing.

» Bone out meat from your animal (following evidence of sex and antler-point regulations).

» Avoid eating brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, pancreas, tonsils and lymph nodes.

» Do not eat meat from CWD -positive animals.

Testing your Harvest for CWD

CWD testing for deer and elk is voluntary and available statewide.

The test costs up to $25 per animal when submitted through CPW. See the CPW webpage (address above) in early August for costs and other details. Test costs may be waived at CPW office submission sites (listed on the inside cover) in seasons or units where more samples are needed.

Preparing Animals For Testing

Avoid shooting an animal in the head or neck.
When removing the head, leave 1-2 inches below where the neck joins the skull (just below the first vertebrae). Whole brains or other brain pieces are not accepted for testing.

Alternate tissues may be used for testing. Check the website for details on how to obtain and deliver these tissues.

Collecting Sample in the Field

Hunters may want to learn to collect samples themselves. Keep samples or heads cold but not frozen. Do not submerge in water.

Submit samples or heads as soon as possible, no more than five days after harvest. Hunters can remove antlers before submitting heads. However, animals from units with antler-point restrictions must comply with regulations.

Submitting Animals for Testing

You can take heads or tissue samples to a CPW office submission site (listed on the inside cover) or a participating veterinarian.

You must bring your license so that CPW can scan the bar code and obtain your address and phone number. You will be asked for kill site coordinates or to show it on a map at the submission site, along with the unit and date of harvest.

If someone else submits your animal, they must bring your CID number, but you should keep your license. Submitters should bring the information listed above.

See the webpage above in early August for submission sites, hours and other details.

Test Results

All samples are sent to Colorado State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing.

Testing is for CWD screening only and does not assure the absolute safety of meat for human consumption. Testing accuracy and sensitivity vary, depending on sample type and quality.

No test can assure complete accuracy, and “not detected” results don’t exclude the possibility of early stage CWD.

Test results are provided on the CPW website or by calling (303) 297-1192.

Tests are completed as soon as possible. The goal is to provide results within 10-15 working days, subject to volume and laboratory backlog. Suspected positive results are confirmed by a second test, which takes 7-10 more working days.

Because moose samples are tested differently than deer and elk, their initial results may not be available for 15-20 working days or more.

Hunters whose animals test positive are contacted by CPW. If you don’t get test results more than three weeks (15 working days) after submission, call a CPW office.

License Fee and Other Refunds

Hunters whose deer, elk or moose test positive for CWD are eligible for a license fee refund or an antlerless license.

If the hunting season has ended or there’s not a reasonable amount of time left in the current season, CPW may issue an antlerless license for the next year’s season in the same unit where the animal was killed. If antlerless hunting isn’t offered in that unit, CPW can designate a substitute unit.

FOR MOOSE : If the original license was for a season that closed before Oct. 31, the replacement license will be valid until Oct. 31.

When paid, costs for processing CWD- positive animals are refunded. Requests for reimbursements must be made on CPW forms and accompanied by receipts. Reimbursements up to $50 for processing allowed without receipts. Reimbursements for deer and elk are limited to $100 per animal for private processing or $200 per animal for commercial processing. The maximum allowed for commercial processing of moose is $250.

Carcass Transport Restrictions

Nonresidents are encouraged to check with non-Colorado wildlife agencies to see if carcass restrictions apply before taking deer, elk or moose carcasses from Colorado through other states.