Recommendations for Hunters: Other Questions



Why shouldn't I eat certain parts of my deer and elk?

While research has shown that prions may be present in a wide variety of tissues and body fluids, including blood and muscle, they are most prevalent in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. Thus, it is recommended that hunters bone out harvested cervids in the field, and take extra precautions when handling organs where prions are most likely to accumulate (A complete list of current hunter recommendations is available here).

There is currently no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans. However, public health officials recommend that human exposure to the CWD agent be avoided as they continue to research the disease. Accordingly, hunters are advised not to eat meat from animals known to be infected with CWD. If you wish to have your animal tested for CWD, contact the local wildlife agency for information regarding appropriate procedures and submission locations. Remember, while disease testing is an important tool for detecting CWD, it is not a food safety test.

How can I reduce the possibility of spreading CWD contaminated tissue when butchering my game?

Prions are most concentrated in the brain, spinal cord, lymph glands, tonsils, eyes and spleen. To minimize the risk of exposure to potentially contaminated tissues, wear latex or rubber gloves when handling your game animal and bone out all meat. Avoid sawing through bone where possible (particularly the spinal column), and do not cut through edible portions of meat with a blade used to cut bone. Additionally, remove as much fatty tissue as possible. Many lymph glands are located in fat deposits under the skin and between muscle layers.

How should I clean my knives, saws and other butchering equipment? What destroys prions?

Prions are very resistant to disinfection. The best recommendation for hunters wishing to disinfect home butchering equipment is to clean all surfaces with a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water.

I usually take my deer or elk to a commercial processor. What should I request of them?

Commercial operators should completely bone out the animal and keep the meat separate from other processed game. Lymph glands should be removed prior to grinding the meat.

I want to keep the antlers from my deer and elk? What should I do?

If you remove the skull cap with antlers attached, the saw should be cleaned and disinfected with a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water. This saw should not be used to cut through any edible portions of meat on the carcass. If you keep the entire skull (for a European mount), you should insure all flesh and soft tissue, including brain matter, is removed. Wear rubber or latex gloves while doing this, and clean the skull by soaking it in a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water. If you wish to transport the entire skull or anything more than a cleaned skull cap out of a CWD positive area, contact your local state wildlife agency to determine if carcass transportation regulations apply to your area or state. An interactive North American map summarizing state and provincial carcass transportation regulations can be found here.

I usually dump my deer and elk bones in a pasture. Can other deer or elk get CWD from the bones?

Little is known about how infected cervid parts may or may not contaminate the environment. Researchers have discovered, however, that prions readily adhere to various soil elements and remain infectious for many years. Therefore, it is recommended that bones and other carcass parts be double bagged in strong garbage bags and disposed of at a landfill with an approved dead animal disposal area.

Can I get my deer or elk tested for CWD?

In general, yes. Most states conduct surveillance for CWD through a network of 26 certified laboratories. If you are hunting in an area where surveillance is occurring, you may be required to submit your harvested animal for testing. If you are not, but still wish to have your animal tested for CWD, contact the local wildlife agency for the appropriate procedures and submission location. Remember, such
testing is an important tool for detecting CWD, but it is not a food safety test.

What should I do if I see a deer or elk that shows symptoms of CWD?

Many diseases and health conditions can cause emaciation or neurological damage in wild cervids. Unless your state wildlife agency or other appropriate authority has issued specific instructions or
regulations, you should accurately document the location of the animal and immediately contact the nearest officer or employee of the state wildlife agency. Do not attempt to contact, disturb, kill or remove the animal.

If you have specific questions regarding the status of CWD in the area you are planning to hunt, you should contact the state wildlife agency. The CWD Links section of this website may provide you with access to the information you are seeking.

Click these links for more information

Simple Precautions

Other Questions

Areas Where CWD Has Been Detected

USDA Guidelines for U.S. Hunters in Canada

CWD Videos

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