Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Update: April 18, 2018 (Final)
In the 2017/18 surveillance season we received a total of 6429 heads, of which 6340 were suitable for testing. We detected CWD in 327 animals (5.2% of 6340; up from 3.5% in 2016/17). The positives included 326 deer (281 mule deer, 45 white-tail; 264 males, 62 females) and 1 female elk. As in previous years the majority of cases were mule deer (281 of 327; 86%), particularly mule deer bucks (220 of 327; 67%).
Also as in previous years, species- and gender-specific differences are apparent, although the proportion of infected animals continues to rise in all categories (except moose) (compare to 2016 data at the bottom of this page):
In the 6340 heads that were suitable for determining disease status, CWD was detected in:
- 8.2% of 3417 mule deer
- 1.8% of 2489 white-tailed deer
- 0.4% of 229 elk (primarily from CFB Suffield)
- 0 of 198 moose (primarily from CFB Wainwright)
In the 5903 deer for which gender/sex was reported, CWD was detected in:
- 12.4% of 1778 male mule deer
- 3.7% of 1639 female mule deer
- 2.5% of 1739 male whitetails
- 0.1% of 747 female whitetails
The disease continues to expand further westward into central Alberta. In the 2017/18 surveillance sample, CWD was detected in seven new Wildlife Management Units (WMU) in the Red Deer/South Saskatchewan/Bow watershed (102, 124, 138, 156) and Battle watershed (204, 206, 228), see map below. These units are adjacent to previous cases and indicate further geographic spread of CWD westward along major waterways. Of particular note, a cluster of cases was found in the vicinity of Tofield (WMU 242) and CWD was detected well up the Bow River east of Strathmore (southeast WMU 156).
We also detected CWD in a cow elk from WMU 732 (Canadian Forces Base Suffield). Since 2012, we tested 2117 elk from WMU 732 and detected CWD in two (0.1%). However, the disease is well established in mule deer and white-tailed deer in areas outside the military base along the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers.
Alberta began CWD hunter surveillance in 1998 and has one of the best continuous datasets documenting the occurrence and patterns of CWD in wild cervids, specifically in prairie/parkland ecosystems. The continued support of hunters and landowners over the previous 19 years is the basis for the strength in the surveillance data.
CWD surveillance in Alberta is a year-round program. Suitable heads can be tested any time throughout the year. Submit heads at any Fish and Wildlife office during their office hours. See page 13 of the 2017 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations for office locations and phone numbers.
Please also note that for biosafety and logistical reasons, we are unable to return heads to a hunter. If you wish to keep any part of the head or antlers, you should remove it before submitting the remaining portion for CWD testing. Additional information is provided at the web page below.
Additional information about preparing and submitting heads can be found at:
The success of the CWD surveillance program relies heavily on participation by hunters, guides, and landowners to ensure a successful harvest that provides heads
to be tested. We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of one and all.
The total number of CWD cases detected in wild deer in Alberta since September 2005 is 919.
Note that hunters receive NEGATIVE test results directly at the email address associated with their individual AlbertaRELM account. The email process is the only notification hunters receive when their animal is NEGATIVE for CWD.
As in the past, hunters who harvest a CWD POSITIVE deer are contacted directly by phone (see below).
Patterns of CWD in Alberta
There are significant overall patterns of disease occurrence in Alberta. CWD continues to occur primarily in mule deer in comparison to white-tailed deer
despite testing large numbers of both species. Similarly males are more likely to be infected than females.
Analyses of previous data determined the weighted CWD occurrence in Alberta is:
- Mule Deer: male 1.00 female 0.4
- White-tailed Deer: male 0.3 female 0.1
Thus male mule deer are the most likely, and female white-tailed deer the least likely to be infected with CWD.
The geographic distribution of CWD is clustered in some WMUs but continues to expand westward.
The finding of CWD in a moose near the South Saskatchewan River valley in 2012 is the first such case identified in Canada.
Specific information about the CWD hunter surveillance program is provided at:
The CWD Freezer Locations currently posted on the Information for Hunters page has all the correct information for 2017. Note that the freezers generally are available each year only between mid-October and late December. Current information also is available from any Fish and Wildlife office.
- CWD surveillance is focused on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border; however, hunter-killed deer (and elk) are accepted from anywhere in the province (as in all previous years)
- Ongoing NEGATIVE test results are made available to individual hunters; when test results are available, the hunter receives an email that provides the negative result
- Ongoing POSITIVE test results are provided by phone directly to the hunter who harvested the infected deer
2016 Fall CWD Surveillance Results
In 2016/17 we tested a total of 5112 heads and detected CWD in 179 animals (3.5%; up from 2.4% in 2015/16). The positives included 178 deer (154 mule deer, 23 white-tail, 1 unknown deer; 136 males, 41 females, 1 unknown gender) and 1 male elk. As in previous years the majority of cases were mule deer (154 of 179; 86%), particularly mule deer bucks (119 of 179; 66%).
Also as in previous years, species- and gender-specific differences are apparent. In the 4944 heads that were suitable for determining disease status, CWD was detected in:
- 5.4% of 2833 mule deer
- 1.5% of 1494 white-tailed deer
- 0.2% of 431 elk (primarily from CFB Suffield)
- 0 of 176 moose (primarily from CFB Wainwright)
In the 4312 deer for which gender/sex was reported, CWD was detected in:
- 8.1% of 1473 male mule deer
- 2.6% of 1349 female mule deer
- 1.7% of 1071 male whitetails
- 1.3% of 473 female whitetails
The disease continues to expand further westward into central Alberta. In the 2016/17 surveillance sample, CWD was again detected beyond the known range in the province (further up the Red Deer River in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 158, in WMU 230 in the Battle River watershed, and in WMU 254 in the Vermilion River watershed). These units are adjacent to previous cases and indicate further geographic spread of CWD along major waterways. However, the finding of CWD in a white-tailed deer in WMU 250 northeast of Fort Saskatchewan is a significant westward extension of the known occurrence in the North Saskatchewan River watershed.
We also detected CWD in a bull elk from WMU 732 (Canadian Forces Base Suffield). Since 2012, we tested 1973 elk from WMU 732 and this is the first one found to have CWD (0.05%). However, the disease is well established in mule deer and white-tailed deer in areas outside the military base along the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers.
Hunters continue to support the program and are providing a solid foundation on which we can monitor CWD as it spreads among eastcentral deer populations.
To learn more about CWD Surveillance in Alberta, see:
For past CWD surveillance results and a general timeline of CWD in Alberta, see:
Submit deer heads for CWD testing at any Fish and Wildlife office during their office hours or any of the forty-nine 24-hour freezers in Edmonton, Calgary, and across eastern Alberta during rifle seasons.
In order to track this disease in our deer populations, submission of deer heads for CWD testing is MANDATORY in eastern Alberta from Cold Lake south to the US border.
For more details, see:
CWD Map and Statistics
News Releases and Information Bulletins
- Nineteen new cases of chronic wasting disease in wild deer- Apr 1, 2011
- New cases of chronic wasting disease found in wild deer- Mar 19, 2010
- Eight new cases of chronic wasting disease detected in wild deer- Mar 20, 2009
- Opportunities abound for Alberta hunters in 2007 guide/Alberta continues program to manage chronic wasting disease- Jul 16, 2007
- Testing completed for chronic wasting disease winter program- May 8, 2007
- Expanded chronic wasting disease testing discovers three more cases- Apr 5, 2007
- Alberta takes action on chronic wasting disease in wild deer- Feb 22, 2007
- Three more cases of chronic wasting disease found in wild deer- Dec 21, 2006
- Alberta hunters asked to assist with CWD control efforts- Sep 15, 2006
- Winter efforts to control CWD in wild deer in Alberta wrap up- Apr 18, 2006
- Winter tests find one more case of CWD in wild deer in Alberta- Mar 3, 2006
- Four more cases of CWD found in wild deer in Alberta- Feb 17, 2006
- First case of CWD found in wild deer killed by hunter in Alberta- Dec 9, 2005
- No chronic wasting disease found in latest culled deer- Nov 4, 2005
- Chronic wasting disease found in two more wild deer in Alberta- Oct 3, 2005
- Chronic wasting disease found in a wild deer in Alberta- Sep 2, 2005
Updated: Jul 11, 2018