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An Update About CWD for 2023

By Bruce Ingram

Photos by Bruce Ingram

Understandably, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a topic much on the minds of Virginia sportsmen and wildlife watchers. Alexandra Lombard, wildlife health coordinator for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), provided an update.

“Right now, we have CWD in nine counties in Northern Virginia and in four counties in Southwest Virginia,” she said. “The disease is still spreading, but in the past year only one county outside of a Disease Management Area (DMA)—Fairfax— had a positive case.”

Lombard added that DWR recorded 47 positive cases during the 2022-23 season, and staff performed a similar amount of testing as in previous years. The implementation of carcass transportation restrictions and liberalized hunting regulations in DMAs has hopefully contributed to slowing the spread.

Fortunately, the Old Dominion has long had a ban against baiting whitetails during hunting seasons and restrictions on feeding deer in the DMAs are in effect.

“The bans on baiting and feeding deer can help slow the spread of CWD,” Lombard emphasized. “When hunters and the general public follow those regulations, it keeps deer from clustering in one area at the same time.

“Another benefit of these restrictions is that deer are less likely to cause human/wildlife conflicts such as vehicle accidents. Yes, baiting deer can provide temporary benefit to hunters, as feeding deer can provide temporary enjoyment for landowners. But the long-term negative effects are considerable.”

How Hunters and the General Public Can Help

Lombard emphasized that DWR alone can’t stop the spread of chronic wasting disease. The agency needs the help and cooperation of all Virginia’s hunters and wildlife enthusiasts. Here are some things you can do to help slow the spread of this disease. The future health of Virginia’s deer populations depend on it.

  • Keep huntingas an abundance of deer on the landscape may make it easier for the disease to spread.
  • Don’t feed deer. Concentrating deer around a feed pile or mineral lick increases the chances of contact between sick deer and healthy deer.
  • Don’t discard leftover parts of a harvested deer on the landscape! Infected parts of a deer can contaminate the local environment and expose healthy deer to CWD. Leftover parts of a deer can be double-bagged and placed in a trash receptacle for home pick-up or discarded at a landfill or compactor site. Deep burial is a less preferred disposal option and should occur as close to the site of harvest as possible.
  • Know before you go! If you are hunting out-of-state, or hunting in a Disease Management Area, only boned-out or quartered meat, capes with no skulls attached, skulls or skull plates with no attached brain tissue, clean antlers or jaw bones, ivories, or finished taxidermists products may be legally brought into Virginia or transported out of a DMA.
  • Do not use lures or attractants that contain natural deer urine or scent gland secretions. The use of these products in Virginia is illegal as they may contain the infectious agent that causes CWD.
  • Contact the Wildlife Conflict Helpline at 855-571-9003. If you see a very thin deer or elk that is also acting abnormally (examples: not scared of humans or pets, exhibits a wide-based stance, is drooling excessively, or has a droopy head or ears).
  • Finally, get your deer tested! This is available for free in all DMAs throughout the season. Bring your deer head and 4 inches of neck to any of our voluntary testing sites. See for the most up-to-date list of locations.
  • September 1, 2023