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Managing Chronic Wasting Disease: Taking Action and Testing

The management of 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. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) current control measures include quarantine, depopulation and compensation to affected game farm owners. On January 1, 2018, CFIA will change their CWD control program; 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.

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, with results available in two to eight weeks. 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 are available at these locations.

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.    

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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