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Guidance for Hunters Requesting CWD Testing for Harvested Deer

Background

Chronic wasting disease is a prion disease that affects deer and elk. It has been found in Frederick and Shenandoah Counties.  CWD is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.  To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people or domestic animals. However, recent animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to some types of monkeys that eat meat from CWD-infected animals. These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people.

Hunters must consider many factors when determining whether to eat meat from deer and elk harvested from areas with CWD, including the level of risk they are willing to accept. In areas where CWD is known to be present, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hunters strongly consider having those animals tested before eating the meat.

Important Note

The currently available chronic wasting disease (CWD) diagnostic tests are not food safety tests  and the intent of any testing is not to certify a deer as “safe for consumption”.  Test results will be either “positive” or “no prions detected”.  In the early stages of infection, prions may not be at levels detectable by the test.  A negative test result does not guarantee that an individual animal is not infected with CWD, but it does make it considerably less likely and may reduce risk of exposure to CWD.

Deer Harvested in Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, and Warren Counties

These four counties comprise the CWD Containment Area.  Testing of deer harvested in these areas on November 18 and 25 is mandatory  (see https://dwr.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/cwd-sampling-stations-list.pdf ). Hunters may also submit deer heads from this area for CWD testing free of charge at a VDGIF refrigerator drop site on any day during any deer season.  Submission instructions are available at each site.  Addresses for refrigerator drop sites are below.

  • Enders Fire Department, 9 South Buckmarsh Street, Berryville
  • Virginia Department of Forestry, 265 Lakeview Drive, Woodstock
  • North Mountain Fire and Rescue Company 19, 186 Rosenberger Lane, Winchester
  • Elks Lodge, 4088 Guard Hill Road, Front Royal
  • Frederick Conservation Club, 500 Siler Road, Winchester

Deer Harvested in Any Other Virginia County

VDGIF is working with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Diagnostic Laboratories to offer a fee-based service for CWD sample collection for  hunters who are interested in testing deer harvested in other parts of Virginia.  The cost for sample collection ((i.e. removal of lymph nodes from the head of the deer to send to the laboratory and half of the lower jaw to be used to age the deer) will be $35, to be paid by the hunter at the time of submission.  The cost of the laboratory testing will be covered by VDGIF and the hunter will be notified of the results in 10 – 14 days.  Important things to remember:

  1. The sample collection requires a large incision in the neck of the deer, which renders the cape unusable for a mount. If you are going to take your buck to a taxidermist to be mounted, do not bring the head to VDACS until after the taxidermist has caped it out.  Tell the taxidermist to save the head and four inches of neck after it is caped out.  Once the head is caped out by the taxidermist, pick up the head (minus the hide) from the taxidermist and bring it to VDACS for sample collection.
  2. The cost of the sample collection is not free. It is $35.  This is to be paid to VDACS at the time of deer head submission.
  3. Bring the head of the deer plus at least 4 inches of neck to one of the following VDACS laboratories. Lymph nodes located in the neck and one half of the lower jaw bone will removed by VDACS staff.  The rest of the head will be retained by VDACS and incinerated unless you wish to retain it.
    • Harrisonburg Laboratory, 261 Mount Clinton Pike, Harrisonburg (540-209-9130)
    • Lynchburg Laboratory, 4832 Tyreeanna Road, Lynchburg (434-200-9988)
    • Warrenton Laboratory, 272 Academy Hill Road, Warrenton (540-316-6543)
    • Wytheville Laboratory, 250 Cassell Road, Wytheville (276-228-5501)