North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Deer Diseases

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been found in North Carolina. Until the spring of 2005, the nearest case to North Carolina was in northern Illinois. In April 2005, New York wildlife officials reported CWD in two captive herds and among wild deer nearby. In September 2005, wildlife officials from West Virginia reported that CWD had been detected in a wild deer from the northeastern portion of their state.  In 2010 and 2011 CWD was detected just across the West Virginia border in the states of Virginia and Maryland, respectively.

The Wildlife Commission has been conducting surveillance for CWD since 1999. More than 7,499 samples have been submitted for testing. For more information concerning CWD, visit the CWD page and http://www.cwd-info.org/.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of deer and elk. TSEs are neurological diseases characterized by microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter, creating a "spongy" appearance. The disease prions attack the brains of infected animals, causing decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, a blank facial expression and repetitive walking in set patterns. Infected animals become emaciated and eventually die. To date, CWD has been found only in cervids (members of the deer family) in North America.

Important: There has been no confirmed case of CWD in North Carolina. See where CWD has been detected.

Chronic Waste Disease Response Plan

On May 17, 2002, the Wildlife Resources Commission adopted emergency rules related to holding deer and elk in captivity. These emergency rules were adopted to prevent the introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease into North Carolina and to minimize the spread of this disease should it be found within our state. The Commission rules related to CWD are listed below. If you have any questions about these rules, please contact Kelly Douglass, our Captive Cervid Biologist, at (919) 707-0055.

About the disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease of deer, elk and related animals characterized by microscopic empty spaces in the brain matter, creating a "spongy" appearance. Afflicted animals exhibit unusual behavior (see below) and eventually die. The source of the disease appears to be an abnormal protein, called a prion, in the nervous system. Transmission is between animals, but the method is unknown. Animals may be infected five years or more before showing symptoms.

Signs of Chronic Wasting Disease

  • isolation from other animals
  • listlessness
  • lack of coordination
  • frequent lowering of the head
  • blank facial expressions
  • repetitive walking in set patterns
  • drooling and grinding of teeth
  • drinking lots of water and increased urination
  • extreme low weight

Suspicious deer

If you see a deer exhibiting numerous CWD symptoms, you can call the Wildlife Resources Commission at 1-800-662-7137. If you have harvested a deer that was showing symptoms, leave the animal at the site of the kill and call 1-800-662-7137.

Do not validate the animal on your Big Game Harvest Report Card as you may be offered the option of submitting the entire deer to the WRC for disease testing . If you do submit the entire animal for testing, it will not count towards your annual bag limit.

Hunting outside North Carolina

The Wildlife Resources Commission recommends that N.C. citizens wishing to hunt deer, elk or related wildlife bring back only...

  • meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately)
  • quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached
  • meat that has been boned out
  • hides with no heads attached
  • skull plates with antlers attached
  • clean hides (no meat or tissue attached)
  • upper canine teeth (i.e., "buglers", "whistlers", or "ivories")
  • antlers with no meat or tissue attached
  • finished taxidermy heads

Eating venison

There has been no documented case of humans contracting a CWD-like disease from deer. In fact, the World Health Organization states there is no scientific evidence that CWD can infect humans. For optimal safety, the WRC recommends people do NOT eat…

  • meat from a deer that looks sick
  • any of the following organs: brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen, and lymph nodes

Should I have my deer tested?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer and elk. Only three species in the deer family – white-tailed deer, elk, and mule deer – are currently known to be susceptible to CWD. In the United States the disease has been reported in wild deer from Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. While the disease has not been found in North Carolina or any other Southeastern or Atlantic Coast state, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has submitted 1,653 samples for testing since 1999. Very specific brain and lymph node tissues are required for testing, and the USDA has only certified 28 state and federal laboratories to test deer for the presence of CWD. Hunters should not shoot, handle, or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or otherwise appears to be sick. Contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (919-707-0050 or 1-800-662-7137) if such an animal is observed. More information concerning CWD can be found on the CWD Alliance Web site - http://www.cwd-info.org/. This Web site is updated regularly and serves as the primary information resource for professional wildlife managers and the hunting public. Links to specific topics of interest are also provided below.

General disease information:

 

Common-sense precautions for handling and processing deer:

 

 

Where CWD has been detected:

 

 

Carcass Transportation Regulations for other states:

 

 

This information would apply to North Carolina hunters that hunt deer and/or elk in other states. While North Carolina has no restrictions on the importation of carcasses from legally killed deer and elk from other states, we strongly recommend that hunters follow the guidelines provided in the link before importing such carcasses.

 

Hemorrhagic Disease

Hemorrhagic Disease is the most important infectious disease of white-tailed deer, and outbreaks occur almost every year in the Southeast. It is caused by either of two closely related viruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus or bluetongue virus. Because disease features produced by these viruses are indistinguishable, a general term, hemorrhagic disease, often is used when the specific virus responsible is unknown. Because EHD and bluetongue viruses are transmitted by biting flies, hemorrhagic disease is seasonal and occurs in late summer and early fall. 

Hemorrhagic Disease Report for District 3, 2014 (PDF)

Hemorrhagic Disease 2012 (PDF)

Hemorrhagic Disease Presentation Video

Southeastern Wildlife Disease Study Information on Hemorrhagic Disease of Whitetail Deer (PDF)


 

Hunting and West Nile Virus 

West Nile virus is an infectious disease of birds that can also infect humans. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, West Nile virus may cause flu-like symptoms in humans, such as headache, swollen glands and muscle aches, as well as a rash. Usually West Nile virus only causes mild disease in humans, but in rare cases the virus may cause encephalitis and even death. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems are most likely to be severely affected by West Nile virus.


Seen a Sick Deer?

If you have seen or harvested a sick deer, please call your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Division at 919-707-0050.

Signs to look for:

  • Isolation from other animals
  • Listlessness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Frequent lowering of the head
  • Blank facial expressions
  • Continuously walking in set patterns
  • Drooling and grinding of teeth
  • Drinking lots of water and increased urination
  • Low weight
For more information, see our Chronic Wasting Disease Fact Sheet.