CWD Updates

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Update: 2016/17 Final

We have completed the heads received to date from the 2016/17 hunting seasons. A total of 5112 heads were tested since September 1, 2016, and we 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 (119 of 179; 66%) were mule deer bucks.

Also as in previous years, species- and gender-specific differences are apparent in the surveillance data. 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, 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%). 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.

Note that all CWD freezers have now been removed. However, any time throughout the year, heads can be submitted at any Fish and Wildlife office during their office hours. See page 14 of the 2016 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations for office locations and phone numbers.

Additional information about preparing and submitting heads and specific freezer locations 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 592.

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 2016. 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

2015 Fall CWD Surveillance Results

We tested 4929 heads and detected CWD in 116 deer (2.4%). This is an increase in annual overall prevalence from the 2.1% in the 4163 heads tested in the 2014 surveillance program. The 116 cases in 2015 included 105 mule deer, 11 white-tailed deer; 84 males, 31 females, 1 of unknown gender. Majority of cases (77 of 116; 66%) were mule deer bucks.

As in previous years, species-and gender-specific differences are apparent in the surveillance data. In the 4798 heads that were suitable for determining disease status, CWD was detected in:

  • 3.8% of 2756 mule deer
  • 0.8% of 1420 white-tailed deer
  • 0 of 487 elk (primarily from CFB Suffield)
  • 0 of 135 moose (primarily from CFB Wainwright)

In the 4033 deer for which gender/sex was reported, CWD was detected in:

  • 5.9% of 1310 male mule deer
  • 2.0% of 1325 female mule deer
  • 0.7% of 991 male whitetails
  • 1.0% of 407 female whitetails

The geographic distribution of CWD continues to expand with the disease identified in the 2015/16 sample in 6 WMUs where CWD was not previously known to occur: WMU 116 in southeast; 158, 166, 238, and 242 in eastcentral; and 500 in northeast Alberta. These cases are in the Milk River, Red Deer River, Battle River, and North Saskatchewan River watersheds.

The most remarkable new case is the outlier in WMU 242 approximately 100 km further west than the closest known cases (in WMU 232 and 203). This was a mule deer buck harvested on the northern edge of the Battle River watershed west of Miquelon Lake and approximately 30 km southeast of Edmonton. Although we know CWD is well-established in the eastern reaches of the Battle River, the case in WMU 242 significantly expands the known distribution of CWD in central Alberta. Cumulatively we have tested 700 deer heads from the Battle River watershed between WMU 242 and WMU 203/232 and all were negative for CWD. Thus, until we have data to show otherwise, the case near Miquelon Lake appears to be an outlier.

Hunters continue to support the program and are providing a solid foundation on which we can monitor CWD as it becomes further established in eastern 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:

Attention Hunters!

Submit deer heads for CWD testing at any Fish and Wildlife office during their office hours or any of the forty-five 24 hr freezers in Edmonton, Calgary, and across eastern Alberta during rifle seasons.

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


Page Information

Updated: Apr 19, 2017