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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

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What You Should Know

  • In April 2024, chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in an Indiana deer for the first time. The deer was a hunter-harvested white-tailed deer taken during deer season in LaGrange County.
  • Currently, there are no management actions that have been shown to cure deer of CWD, prevent deer from getting CWD, stop or significantly slow the spread of CWD, or eradicate CWD from the deer herd. This is especially true of areas like LaGrange County, where we expected to find the disease, based on CWD-positive cases across the border in Michigan.
  • Indiana DNR’s response plan focuses on monitoring the spread of CWD to inform hunters and enable Hoosiers to live with the presence of this disease in deer.
  • DNR will continue to make CWD testing available at participating Fish & Wildlife areas (FWAs), State Fish Hatcheries (SFHs), and National Wildlife Refuges during the deer hunting season. DNR will also monitor the spread of CWD through regular surveillance and response to reports of sick deer from the public.
  • Currently, no evidence suggests that CWD can infect humans.
  • Learn more about the full plan to manage CWD.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease affecting white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. It is a member of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), or prion diseases. Other similar prion diseases in this group include mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep. CWD is spread through bodily fluids like feces, saliva, blood, or urine and is transmitted through direct contact or indirect contact through environmental contamination of soil, plants, food, or water.

Although CWD is associated with captive deer and elk, it is also found in free-ranging white-tailed deer in several Midwestern states close to Indiana, including Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Indiana DNR staff collect tissue samples from wild deer year-round (hunter-harvested or reported sick/dead) to monitor the presence of CWD in Indiana.

Learn more about Indiana’s CWD surveillance history in the annual Indiana White-tailed Deer Report.

  • Management Plan for CWD Positive Areas

    Immediately after the detection of a CWD positive wild deer, regulatory actions will be taken to reduce human-assisted movement of the disease to areas outside of the CWD Positive Areas, and tools will be made available to land managers in these areas affected by CWD. The CWD Positive Areas will be spatially applied at the county level. Regulatory efforts will include:

    • Modeling of CWD confirmed detections and expansion of CWD Positive Areas
    • Restrictions on the movement of fawns to rehabilitation facilities outside of CWD Positive Areas
    • Provision of deer disease permits for cervid farms within CWD Positive Areas

    Modeling the Spread of CWD

    A limitation on CWD management efforts creates difficulty in detecting the disease in a wild population. Given the current capacity to test hunter harvested deer, it will be nearly impossible to detect CWD until it is established in the population and at an elevated prevalence (i.e., greater than 1%; Belsare et al. 2021). Therefore, the first detection of CWD inside Indiana will likely NOT be the first CWD positive deer in the state and at that point it is likely the disease will have been in the infected area for at least 10 years (Belsare et al. 2021).

    When CWD is found, it will likely be detected close to the epicenter of the disease, where it has been the present the longest period and is at the highest prevalence. We also know that disease dynamics and detectability rates can be used to estimate the distance the CWD infection extends from this core area based on the prevalence and size of the core disease hotspot. Understanding the extent of a CWD infection is important for expanding CWD Positive Area regulations (i.e., restrictions on fawn movement to rehabilitators and disease permits for cervid farms). Therefore, Indiana DNR will use modeling (e.g., agent-based model or linear-growth model) designed for the midwestern landscape to estimate the extend of CWD infections affecting Indiana (see research from Federal Grant # F20AF10944-00 W-48-R-04 Mitigating Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease through an Ecological Trap; Jennelle et al. 2014; Belsare and Stewart 2020). After CWD is detected inside or within 10 miles of Indiana’s borders, all available information will be incorporated into the appropriate model to estimate the likely expanse and prevalence of the infected area. Model inputs will include land cover data for the infected county(s), deer density estimates, hunter harvest rates, CWD detection locations, and the apparent prevalence of the core hotspot.

    The output from the model will be used to establish and expand CWD Positive Areas. CWD Positive Areas will be expanded to include the entire county. This will allow Indiana DNR to establish regulations to limit the potential human-assisted movement of a CWD infected fawn or hunter-harvested deer carcass to a different region of the state and thus reduce chances of creating new hotspots. The logic is to be proactive with the establishment and expansion of these CWD Positive Areas using the model instead of taking a reactive approach in which the preventive measures are not implemented until a CWD positive deer is found.

    Restrictions on the Movement of Fawns to Rehabilitation Facilities

    Currently, Indiana Administrative Code prohibits the possession of fawns without a wildlife rehabilitation permit. Regulations on the movement of fawns to rehabilitation facilities will be implemented for counties contained within the CWD Positive Areas. The intention of these regulations will be to reduce human assisted movement of CWD prions out of the infected area in potentially infected deer. Moving a fawn from an infected area to a rehabilitation facility outside of the CWD Positive Area could lead to the introduction of CWD to a new area of the state and must be avoided. But at the same time, the public desires these services to avoid the suffering of injured or abandoned fawns. Therefore, no fawn will be permitted to be transported from within a CWD Positive Area to a county not contained in the CWD Positive Area. Fawns may still be rehabilitated if they are not moved outside of the CWD Positive Area.

    Permits for Deer Damage for Disease Management Purposes

    To afford cervid farm managers a tool to prevent CWD from spreading from wild cervids to captive cervids within CWD Positive Areas, deer disease permits will be available for cervid farmers who farm CWD-susceptible species. Deer disease permits will only be valid outside the hunting season. Permit holders will be required to submit a CWD sample from all deer taken on a deer disease permit to Indiana DNR. Permits will be issued only in specific locations within the CWD Positive Areas where the apparent prevalence is estimated or modelled to be > 5%.

    Learn more about the full plan to manage CWD.

2024-2025 CWD Surveillance

Hunters may drop off deer heads for testing at participating FWAs or SFHs throughout the deer hunting season. For a complete list of locations and hours of operation, please view the interactive map and list of properties. If you make an appointment during normal business hours, a biologist may collect the sample while you wait.

Test results will be posted online for individual hunters to access when laboratory tests are complete. The DNR requests voluntary assistance from hunters in this effort. Participants will receive a metal tag reminiscent of historic confirmation tags as tokens of appreciation.

No fee will be charged for CWD testing of deer through this program.

View CWD Sampling Sites Map
CWD map

Partnering Businesses

DNR will contact processors and taxidermists to determine if they would be interested in participating in this CWD sampling effort. If your business would like to partner with DNR to collect CWD samples, please call 317-473-6693.

Taxidermist Incentive Program

The Indiana DNR and the National Deer Association have started a program to collect samples for CWD testing with the help of taxidermists. In 2023-2024 hunting season, taxidermists from select areas will be asked to participate based on available funding and coverage.

Participating taxidermists will collect the two retropharyngeal lymph nodes, which are found in the neck of white-tailed deer and provide the approximate age of the deer. The DNR will pay taxidermists $10 for each viable sample they collect. DNR will provide sampling supplies and training to all participating taxidermists. Taxidermists will use a provided sample datasheet with corresponding barcoded stickers to record the information that needs to be collected from the hunter.

Hunters will be able to look up the results of their deer’s CWD test online three to four weeks after the samples are picked up. Hunters will also be sent a letter with their deer’s results and a metal commemoration band as a thank you for participating.

Carcass Transportation

Out-of-state deer hunters should follow carcass transportation regulations for their home state as well as carcass transportation regulations for the state in which they are hunting.

Import restrictions governing carcasses in Indiana

Human Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people. However, some animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals.

The CDC further states that these studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people. Since 1997, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.

Testing is not required in Indiana at this time, but in areas where CWD is known to be present, the CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having deer and elk tested before eating the meat. The CDC recommends that you do not eat meat from an animal that tests positive for CWD.

For more information about precautions, you can take to decrease the risk of exposure to CWD, visit the CDC webpage.

For questions related to human health, you may also contact the Indiana State Department of Health at 317-233-1325.

More Information

If you have any questions regarding CWD or other diseases in wild deer, contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish & Wildlife at 844-803-0002 or a DNR Fish & Wildlife health biologist in your region.

You can also find up to date CWD news on the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website.


  • What are the signs of CWD?

    An animal infected with CWD may not show signs of infection until the later stages of the disease but they can be infectious to other cervids before it appears sick. Deer showing advanced clinical signs of CWD appear emaciated, exhibit abnormal behavior such as staggering or standing with poor posture, salivate excessively, or carry their head and ears lower than normal.

  • Why is DNR testing for CWD?

    Before 2024, Indiana DNR was testing Indiana’s deer as a precautionary measure, due to CWD-positive wild deer in bordering states. In April 2024, CWD was detected in an Indiana deer for the first time. As a result, Indiana DNR will continue testing for CWD to monitor spread or identify new areas.

  • How are deer tested for CWD?

    The retropharyngeal lymph nodes, located near the windpipe, are removed from the neck and sent for testing to an approved diagnostic lab. Here, they will be examined for evidence of CWD.

  • Will I be notified of my CWD test results?

    Yes. Hunters can view their test results by clicking on the link “View CWD test results here” at the top of this webpage. The deer’s confirmation number is needed to check results. Final test results may take eight to 12 weeks to appear online. If a deer tests positive for CWD, DNR will notify the hunter directly, using the contact information provided during sample collection.

  • Where can hunters have deer tested?

    People can bring deer to participating Fish & Wildlife areas or State Fish Hatcheries by appointment to have their deer sampled during the hunting season, or hunters can drop off the deer head in a cooler outside the property office. View an interactive map of all CWD sampling locations.

  • Am I required to turn over a sample of my deer?

    No. Participation in the Indiana CWD monitoring program is voluntary.

  • How can I tell if the deer I harvested has CWD?

    There is no way to reliably tell if a deer is infected with CWD without laboratory testing. DNR officials recommend that hunters not process or consume any deer that is obviously ill or emaciated.

  • Are there other options to get deer tested for CWD?

    People who would like to have their deer sampled for CWD but do not wish to visit a Fish & Wildlife Area or State Fish Hatchery may submit samples directly to the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) at Purdue University for a fee. More information and submission forms are available on the ADDL website.

  • What precautions should people take to prevent the spread of CWD?

    Landowners and hunters can reduce the risk of CWD becoming established in a given area by burying carcasses or taking them to a landfill, opting for synthetic based lures instead of natural urine-based lures, eliminating deer feeding, sampling and testing all harvested deer, and reducing the number of deer to make the herd more resilient to CWD infection.

  • What measures are being taken to decrease the number of deer infected with CWD in wild populations? Are there any guidelines in place to manage CWD?

    Indiana DNR’s response plan is based on the latest scientific information about the effectiveness and costs of CWD management options. Currently, there are no management actions that have been shown to cure deer of CWD, prevent deer from getting CWD, stop or significantly slow the spread of CWD, or eradicate it from the deer herd. Therefore, our plan focuses on monitoring the spread of the disease to inform hunters and enable Hoosiers to live with the presence of this disease in deer.

  • What are the long-term effects of CWD on deer and the landscape?

    The long-term effects of CWD are currently unknown, but researchers are investigating the effects of this disease on deer populations as it unfolds.

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