Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, and moose. The disease was caused by a prion, which is a protein that acts like a virus. CWD was first discovered in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado.
CWD is a slow-spreading disease that is passed from one animal to another through saliva, feces, and urine. Deer, elk, and moose may not show any signs of the disease for 24 to 48 months after they become infected.
As the disease gets worse, infected animals show changes in behavior and appearance. These symptoms may include:
- Continuous weight loss
- Little fear of humans and predators
- Excessive drooling, drinking, and urination
- Stumbling, body tremors, lack of coordination
- Loss of appetite
Most animals die within a few months of developing these symptoms. CWD is not believed to infect humans, but to be safe, hunters should never shoot, handle, or eat any animal that appears sick.