An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
CWD is an untreatable disease of the brain and nervous systems that poses a serious threat to deer and elk in Kentucky. The disease kills white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, caribou and moose. The disease was first recognized as a "wasting syndrome" in mule deer in a research facility in Northern Colorado in 1967 and has since spread to free-ranging and captive populations in 30 U.S. states and four Canadian Provinces.
Photo by: Joe Lacefield
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is taking action to protect the state's deer and elk herds after a deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Ballard County.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's
CWD Response Plan calls for the implementation of specific measures following a positive CWD detection in Kentucky. This response plan was enacted on Wednesday, 12/06/2023, after Kentucky Fish and Wildlife announced confirmation of CWD in a 2.5-year-old male white-tailed deer collected in Ballard County. Multiple tests confirmed the presence of CWD in the deer.
Kentuckians can help prevent the spread of CWD in the state by reporting sick or abnormal-behaving deer. Reports can be made by the following:
Since 2002, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has tested more than 39,000 deer and elk for CWD. Deer samples have come from every one of Kentucky's 120 counties. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s
CWD Response Plan serves as a guide to strategically prevent, monitor, and respond to CWD cases in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission (board) has adopted the authoritative
Best Management Practices for addressing CWD. This report was produced by a panel of deer, elk and wildlife disease experts from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), of which the Department is an active member agency.
For the latest information on CWD in Kentucky, please continue to follow our
CWD updates and follow the department’s social media channels.
Up-to-date news regarding CWD across the US and Canada can be found on the
Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website.
If you plan to hunt outside the state of Kentucky for cervids (white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, caribou or moose) please know
that state law prohibits bringing whole carcasses of a deer, elk, moose and caribou into Kentucky from other states. The brain and spinal column must be removed. Hunters can only bring back the following:
Taxidermists and processors who receive whole carcasses of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, caribou, or moose from out of state should call 1-800-25-ALERT (1-800-252-5378) to contact their local conservation officer. For further information please review
KAR 2:095 Importation of Cervid Carcasses and Parts.
Please Note: These videos were produced and published prior to Dec. 6, 2023, when the first case of CWD was detected in Kentucky. The videos still contain important information for hunters to help reduce the spread of the disease.
Help Us Keep KY Free Of CWD
CWD - What is it?
CWD Informational Q&A
Hemorrhagic Disease vs. CWD
How to Cape a Deer
Deer and elk can be infected with CWD for months or years before clinical signs appear. If deer and elk survive to reach the terminal stages of infection, they will show signs of progressive weight loss, excessive salivation and urination, increased water intake and depression. Other noticed changes include decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, and repetitive walking in set patterns. The brains of animals with advanced stages of CWD may have a spongy appearance to their brain when examined through a microscope. This is the result of the disease agent causing holes in the brain.
The only definitive way to diagnose CWD is by examination of a portion of the brain stem (the obex) and lymph node tissue (the retropharyngeal lymph node). There is currently no practical live-animal test for CWD.
CWD is an always fatal disease that infects and white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, caribou and moose.
No evidence suggests that CWD can infect humans. However, the CDC recommends that people should not consume meat from an animal that has tested positive for CWD.
Hunters should follow routine safety precautions when handling, processing, and consuming meat from harvested game: