MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (DNR) and other state officials are encouraging hunters who harvest adult deer in counties affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD) to have the animal tested.
As a precaution, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommends the public only consume venison from deer in which CWD is not detected. In areas where CWD is known to be present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters strongly consider having those animals tested before eating the meat.
CWD is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, moose and caribou. An abnormal protein called a prion causes the disease. Prions are not destroyed even when cooking meat to safe temperatures. The DNR has been testing samples from hunter-harvested deer to monitor the disease in the wild deer herd since 1999 and CWD was first detected in 2002. The testing results provide data on whether CWD was detected or not detected at the time of sampling.
To find a location in your area where you can submit samples from Wisconsin harvested deer free of charge, visit the DNR’s “Sampling For Chronic Wasting Disease” webpage. Test results are usually available from the DNR within two weeks.
Besides having their own deer tested, hunters who have their deer commercially processed should consider asking whether the processor mixes meat from untested animals into the products it returns to the customer. While processors typically return cuts like steaks and chops from the customer’s deer, other products like sausage and jerky may contain trim meat from other deer, which may or may not have been tested for CWD.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), processors may choose to process all deer with ‘CWD not detected’ lab results together using cleaned and sanitized equipment to avoid the possibility that trim meat from non-tested deer will end up being carried over in products returned to customers. By doing this, processors can assure customers that the products made from co-mingled trim are derived only from deer which have ‘CWD not detected' results.
Hunters have several options to have their deer sampled for CWD. In addition to a network of 24/7 self-service sampling kiosks around the state, additionally some meat processors and taxidermists offer in-person sampling assistance. Hunters should contact staffed sampling stations in advance to verify hours of operation. Some sampling locations also have DNR Wildlife Management staff available to take samples and answer hunters' questions.
Hunters interested in collecting their own CWD sample can request an at-home sampling kit from their local DNR wildlife management staff and return their samples to the DNR for testing. Whether hunters visit a kiosk, meat processor, taxidermist or sample their own deer at home, the online CWD form found in each customer’s Go Wild harvest history is a convenient way to submit all of the information required for a CWD sample.
For hunters who process their own deer, instructions on safe processing are available on the DNR website and on the DATCP website.