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Managing Chronic Wasting Disease: Taking Action and Testing

The management of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a joint responsibility of federal, provincial and territorial governments, farmed cervid producers, hunters, agricultural producers, and others.

Provincial and Federal Actions

CWD is a federally reportable disease in farmed cervids. On April 1, 2018, CFIA changed their CWD control program so that only game farms that are on a national voluntary CWD program will be quarantined, depopulated and compensated. Check the CFIA’s CWD webpage for more information.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, in response to the federal program changes, has taken measures to ensure the province has the appropriate authorities to monitor and respond to suspected or confirmed cases of CWD in farmed cervids. Effective April 6, 2018, CWD has been added to the provincial Notifiable Animal Diseases List and has been named a designated disease under The Diseases of Domestic Game Farm Animals Regulations. This means:

  1. CWD as a notifiable disease: All laboratory-confirmed cases of CWD must be reported to the office of the provincial Chief Veterinary Officer within 24 hours; and
  2. CWD as a designated disease: As a designated disease under The Diseases of Domestic Game Farm Animals Regulations, producers are legally obligated to report any suspected case of CWD to the Ministry of Agriculture, or if their animals have been in contact with a suspected case. In addition, no animals that have been in contact with an animal suspected or confirmed to have CWD can be moved, sold or transferred without the Ministry of Agriculture’s authorization.The regulations also allow the Province to take control measures to manage CWD on suspected or confirmed cases of CWD, where not eligible for CFIA actions.  

In Saskatchewan, due to the concerns of the impact of CWD for wild cervids, a CWD in Wildlife Working Group was formed. It has representation from a number of stakeholders, including:

  • The Ministries of Environment, Agriculture and Health;
  • Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation;
  • Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities;
  • Saskatchewan Outfitters Association;
  • Saskatchewan Bowhunter’s Association;
  • Saskatchewan Black Powder Association;
  • Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan;
  • Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative;
  • Nature Saskatchewan;
  • Regina Fish and Game League; and
  • Parks Canada.

More information on CWD can be found in the Saskatchewan Hunters’ and Trappers’ Guide.

Saskatchewan’s The Domestic Game Farm Animal Regulations require all farmed cervid operations to be licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture. The regulations also require game farm operators to submit appropriate samples for CWD testing of all cervids 12 months of age or older that die, including slaughter animals. For slaughter animals, carcasses are not to be released until negative CWD results are received.  

Agriculture Producer and the General Public Actions

Contact your local Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment field office if you see a wild deer, elk, moose or caribou that is sick or behaving abnormally. A conservation officer will humanely euthanize the animal and submit samples to test for CWD. This will provide information on where CWD is present in the province and what cervid types are affected, and ensure that a CWD-infected animal is removed from the environment.

Do not feed wild cervids, as this encourages these animals to gather and increases the spread of CWD.

Agricultural practices that encourage wild cervids to gather, such as at grain spill sites and hay bales, should be minimized or protected to help reduce the spread of CWD. Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation offers a wildlife damage compensation and prevention program.

Hunter Actions

Hunters are encouraged to test their harvested cervid such as deer, elk, moose and caribou for CWD. Do not eat or distribute for human consumption the meat or other parts from animals that have not been tested, or that are found to be CWD-infected.

The fresh or frozen head of the harvested cervid can be dropped off at a Ministry of Environment field office. There will be no charge for the testing. If you would like to submit a head for CWD testing during the 2017 hunting season, get a unique CWD tracking number, using the new Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative/Government of Saskatchewan submission. Drop-off is available at these locations between Sep. 1 and Jan. 15. For submissions between Jan. 16 and Aug. 31, hunters can drop heads off directly at:

Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC)
Prairie Diagnostics Services (PDS)
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
52 Campus Drive
Saskatoon SK S7N 5B4
Phone: 306-966-7316

Submit a head for CWD testing

If a cervid is found positive for CWD, the meat and other parts should be double bagged and taken to an approved landfill to prevent consumption by animals and minimize environmental contamination with the CWD prion.

Hunters should take precautions when field dressing, transporting and processing harvested cervids. Precautions when field dressing include:

  • Wearing latex or rubber gloves;
  • Deboning the meat from the animal;
  • Minimizing the handling of the brain and spinal cord tissues; and
  • Washing hands and equipment thoroughly after field dressing is completed.

Hunters can help slow the spread of CWD by not introducing the disease to new areas of the province. Carcasses should be field dressed and deboned at the harvest location or, if dressing/deboning at another site, transported no more than 100 km. If a carcass must be transported farther, all carcass waste should be double bagged and deposited at an approved landfill. For more information, contact your local Ministry of Environment office.

Further information for hunters on CWD can be found in the Saskatchewan Hunters’ and Trappers Guide and the Hunters section of the CWD Alliance website. Videos are also available.

Find out more information on the CWD surveillance program

Farmed Cervid Operator Actions

Follow the requirements of The Domestic Game Farm Animal Regulations and the Cervid CWD Mandatory Surveillance Program by reporting and testing all cervids that die at 12 months of age or older, including for slaughter. Do not release meat or other parts until negative CWD test results are available. Follow the process for notifying the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Health Unit and submitting cervids for testing. The cost of CWD testing for farmed cervids is covered by the province. 

CWD remains a federally reportable disease in Canada and all suspected cases are to be reported to a CFIA district veterinarian.

As of April 6, 2018, CWD is a provincially notifiable animal disease and a designated disease in Saskatchewan. All suspect or confirmed cases of CWD are also to be reported to the office of the provincial Chief Veterinary Officer within 24 hours.

Other measures include:

  • Preventing intrusions of wild cervids and escape of farmed cervids;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting trailers;
  • Sourcing safe feed supplies;
  • Keeping feed supplies secure from wild cervids; and
  • Properly disposing of waste.

Recommendations on biosecurity measures are in the National Cervid On-Farm Biosecurity Standard.

Meat Processor, Butcher and Taxidermist Actions

Follow best practices for meat processors, which are available at Food Processing Facility Best Management Practices. Best practices include processing deer, elk, moose and caribou at the end of the day after processing other animals or foods, followed by effective cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces such as counters and knives. Meat and other cervid parts from different hunters should not be combined unless the hunters are aware this is being done.

Taxidermists should also effectively clean and sanitize knives and utensils after working with cervids.

Waste from cervids should be properly contained and disposed of in an approved landfill or other acceptable method of disposal to minimize potential environmental contamination with the CWD prion. For more information on disposal, contact your local Ministry of Environment office.

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