Chronic Wasting Disease - Information For Hunters

CWD News and Updates

  • CWD Updates

    Get the latest updates, maps, and news releases, as well as background information about CWD in Alberta.

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a serious disease that kills members of the deer family such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose.

For more information on Chronic Wasting Disease and Alberta's CWD management strategy, see:

  • Chronic Wasting Disease

    Basic information on CWD, as well as information about freezer locations where you can turn in harvested deer heads for testing.

Deer Head Submission and CWD Testing

Hunters play an important role in Alberta's CWD monitoring by submitting heads of harvested deer for CWD testing.

Step One: Deer Head Submission

Hunter CWD surveillance starts with the submission of hunter-harvested deer heads along with the geographic coordinates where each deer was killed in Alberta.

  • Depending on where in Alberta you are hunting, deer head submission for CWD testing is either mandatory or voluntary.
    • Be familiar with the CWD testing requirements for the area that you are hunting in.
    • For a map illustrating mandatory CWD testing areas in Alberta, see Related Information below for CWD Freezer Locations (Deer Hunters: Assist Us With Our CWD Surveillance).
  • If possible, please do not shoot deer in the head, as this can damage the lymph nodes and brain samples needed for testing. A usable sample consists of the entire head but you can remove the antlers and antler skull plate and not damage the required tissues.
  • Please remove the neck just behind the head – so the head takes up much less space in the freezer!
  • Do not remove and submit only the brain.
  • For so-called 'European' mounts, submit the lower portion of the skull, including:
    • Lower jaw
    • Tissues at the back of the throat, and
    • The part of the skull that contains the connection between the spinal cord and the brain
  • Keep the deer head frozen.
    • You can drop off the frozen head at any Fish and Wildlife office in Alberta (during regular office hours)
    • During fall rifle seasons there are 24-hour freezer locations where heads can be dropped off. See Related Information below for CWD Freezer Locations (Deer Hunters: Assist Us With Our CWD Surveillance).
  • Every head submitted for CWD testing must have a green CWD identification label fixed to it (see below).
  • The freezers contain bags and green CWD identification labels for you to fill out (bags and labels also are available at Fish and Wildlife offices). It is very important that you:
    • Fill out both sides of the CWD label, providing as much detail as possible regarding the location of the submitted sample (GPS, Sec/Twp/Rge, or latitude/longitude) in addition to the Wildlife Management Unit [WMU])
    • Provide your complete personal contact information, so that we can contact you with test results
    • Fasten the CWD label securely to the head of the deer.
    • Keep the bottom part of the label as your record of the CWD number that identifies each specific deer head.

Related Information

  • CWD Freezer Locations (Deer Hunters: Assist Us With Our CWD Surveillance) - 2016 (1 page, 1MB)

    A map and list identifying the current areas of mandatory deer head submissions as well as the locations of 24-hour freezers in Alberta where hunters can drop off deer heads for testing during fall rifle seasons.

    Note for 2016 freezer locations map:

    The freezer map in the 2016 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations contains freezer locations for 2015 (the guide is published before details for the fall are available).

    However, the freezer locations for 2016 remain the same as for 2015 so the map in the hunting guide and the CWD Freezer Locations Map currently posted above have all the correct information for 2016. Current information also is available from any Fish and Wildlife office.

  • Attention Deer Hunters: Surveillance of Harvested Deer Heads for CWD - 2016 (1page, 2.6MB)

    A poster outlining the current fall surveillance program, and instructions on making a proper deer head submission.
  • CWD Guidelines: Deer Carcass Transportation and Handling- Oct 2009 (2 pages, 1MB)

    Suggested precautions and guidelines regarding the transportation and handling of deer carcasses, specifically those deer taken in areas of Alberta considered at risk for CWD, or areas outside Alberta where CWD is known to occur.

  • Fish and Wildlife Office Contacts

    See page 14 of the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations for a list of Fish and Wildlife offices in Alberta, including telephone numbers and office hours information for each office.

  • How to Fill Out CWD Identification Labels- 2016 (1 page, 1MB)

    An illustration of how to fill out the green CWD identification label for each deer head submission.

Step Two: Deer Head Testing

Hunter-submitted deer heads are tested to determine if the harvested deer was infected with CWD. Results of tests are provided to the hunter via email. Only those hunters without AlbertaRELM accounts set up will receive a hard copy letter by mail.

  • All CWD laboratory testing in Alberta is conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (AF).
  • CWD test results are reported to the Fish and Wildlife Division of Environment and Parks (AEP) on an ongoing basis.
  • All hunters who submit heads for CWD testing will be informed about results on their deer.
  • Hunters who submit deer heads that test NEGATIVE for CWD and who have an AlbertaRELM account will receive an email when their negative results are available.
  • Hunters who DO NOT have an AlbertaRELM account set up should
    • Watch for a notice of negative results sent to the email address in your AlbertaRELM account
    • Note, negative results are no longer sent in the regular mail.. All hunters are encouraged to set up an AlbertaRELM account.
  • Hunters who submit deer heads that test POSITIVE for CWD will be contacted directly by phone by Fish and Wildlife staff.
  • Ongoing public notification of positive cases in wild deer in Alberta is provided on AEP's CWD web pages. Summary of all CWD testing in Alberta is provided through the Agriculture and Forestry websites.
  • Data collected from CWD surveillance is used to determine the geographic boundaries, magnitude, and rate of spread and magnitude of the disease in Alberta. These data also are used to support ongoing management as well as research done in conjunction with the University of Alberta to better understand this disease.

Related Information

  • AlbertaRELM

    Get CWD test results for your harvested deer head. You will need your WIN number.

  • CWD Updates

    Review this page for the following information:

    • Chronic Wasting Disease in Wild Deer in Alberta since September 2005 –A map illustrating CWD cases in wild deer in Alberta from September 2005 to present.
    • CWD-positive Deer Info Sheet – Information for hunters who harvest a CWD-infected deer in Alberta
    • Statistics: CWD in Wild Deer in Alberta - A list of all CWD cases in wild deer in Alberta.
  • Alberta Mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Program

    Information regarding CWD programs for farmed cervids as delivered by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.


Page Information

Updated: Oct 4, 2016