Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disorder that primarily affects deer. Biologist Brad Banulis with Colorado Parks and Wildlife told me it’s caused by something called a prion which is a non-living organism of unknown origin that can persist for years. Scientists don’t know for sure how those prions spread but there are theories that it is spread via bodily fluids, food and water are other options for its spread. 

A major tool wildlife experts rely on is testing in order to track the disease. Last year parks and wildlife finished their first five years of mandatory testing across Colorado, showing northwest and other regional elk herds had a low incidence of CWD. This year begins a new 5-year cycle of testing, this time focused on deer.

If you get a notice CPW selected your hunt the process is simple. Take the animal’s head with 5 inches of neck to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife office. Then they will collect some information and a CWD sample from the lymph nodes. once it is tested, they’ll let you know the results. This process shouldn’t interfere with any processing or taxidermy the hunter seeks to do, and if there is a positive result you can even be refunded some of the cost of that processing.

Though they are different, CDC says CWD along with mad cow and Creutzfeldt Jacob in humans belong to the same family of diseases called TSEs. Colorado department of health and environment’s website says no cases of CWD have been found so far but there may be a small risk for people to get CWD from eating the meat of infected animals, which makes testing that much more important.