Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Indiana

Another state has become a member of the club no one wants to join: states with documented presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD). The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced last week that a deer in LaGrange County tested positive for the neurological disorder. LaGrange County is adjacent to a region where CWD had previously been detected in Michigan. CWD has now been detected in wild deer in 33 states, including all states bordering Indiana. A map of CWD occurrence is available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Indiana deer was a male white-tailed deer harvested by a hunter in fall 2023 and submitted for testing. The result was confirmed by two independent tests as positive for CWD. This is a disease caused by misfolded proteins called prions that affect cervid species like white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. CWD appears to be 100% fatal in affected animals although the progression of the disease can take up to three years. The spread of CWD can occur from deer-to-deer contact or through contaminated environments and the infectious prions remain in the soil for many years. Animals in the late stages of CWD can appear emaciated, show erratic behavior, and exhibit neurological irregularities. For more Indiana information or to report a sick deer, please go to DNR: Fish & Wildlife: Sick or Dead Wildlife Reporting.

At SCI Foundation, we are concerned about the impact of CWD. Specifically, we are working with researchers at Auburn University and at the University of Georgia to provide information that will help in managing this disease. Our CWD-related efforts strive to quantify the effects of various policies (e.g., bait bans or carcass disposal restrictions) on risk of CWD introduction and spread, and how to work effectively with landowners and hunters to manage CWD when it is detected in a state by researching effective communication. These projects will produce peer-reviewed literature to guide future CWD management and provide practical tools to deer and elk managers at all levels.

SCI Foundation continues to support science-based research which is key to modern wildlife management decisions that affect all of us.