CWD in Manitoba

Manitoba has had proactive programming in place for prevention and surveillance of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in wild cervids (deer, moose, elk and caribou) since 1997. The program includes CWD surveillance, prohibitions to prevent potentially CWD-positive animals and material from entering Manitoba, as well as various regulatory requirements to minimize unnatural clusters of animals in high-risk areas (e.g. through feeding or baiting).

On November 1, 2021, Manitoba announced the first CWD-positive case found in the province, located on the west side of the province near Lake of the Prairies. A mule deer buck in this area was observed to be unhealthy and acting unnaturally. It was euthanized by staff, tested, and confirmed to be infected with CWD.

In response to this detection, Manitoba is taking action to contain the disease and protect the province’s deer-family populations. More information about the provincial response will be shared regularly on this site as it becomes available.

What is CWD?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease of the central nervous system of deer, elk, moose and caribou, members of the cervid (deer) family. The disease is caused by one or more strains of self-propagating proteins, called prions. The prions, once transmitted, begin to replicate, first in the immune system (lymph nodes and tonsils) and later, in the brain, spinal cord and other organs. This disease belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs tend to be species-specific and scientists believe that most are not naturally transmissible between different species.

CWD has been found in wild deer, elk and moose populations in Saskatchewan and Alberta and in many US states. There have also been CWD outbreaks on deer and elk farms in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec and in many US states.

What are the disease symptoms and can an infected animal be cured?

In early stages, infected animals can appear normal, while also spreading the disease.  As the disease progresses, animals tend to be less alert, and fearful, with a general unhealthy look and obvious weight loss.  As it progresses, infected animals become very thin and uncoordinated, with drooping ears and heads, are unaware of their surroundings and often have excessive drooling.  At this point, death is near. 

There is no cure for CWD. It is always fatal, with animals dying typically within two to three years and sometimes, as long as five years or more from the time of infection.

How is CWD spread?

Infected animals can shed prions in saliva, feces, urine, and possibly, even after death, through their remains. Animals are infected by direct (animal-to-animal) contact transmission or by indirect transmission from prions deposited in the environment. It should be noted that prions can survive in the environment for an extended period of time (e.g., possibly five years or more.)

Can people, or livestock, get CWD?

Currently, there is no direct evidence that CWD can be spread to humans or animals, other than members of the deer family, though the science is still developing in this area. The World Health Organization (WHO), Health Canada, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and numerous other public health agencies recommend against eating meat from CWD-positive animals. Available data suggest that risk of transmission to humans is low, but it is not zero. These public health agencies also recommend against feeding meat or other parts of CWD-infected cervids to other animals.

Regulatory Requirements and Current Restrictions

Temporary Hunting Closures

There are no temporary hunting closures at this time

Mandatory Surveillance Requirements

By law, licenced hunters are required to submit biological samples (head and upper neck) of elk and deer taken in the areas of Game Hunting Area (GHA) 22 west of PTH 83, as well as GHAs 5, 6, 6A, 11, 12, 13, 13A, 18 and 18B (west of PR 366), 18A, 18C, 23, 23A and 27. Because there is no CWD test available for living animals, the province relies on the submission of these biological samples from harvested animals in order to test for CWD.

The need to enhance surveillance around this area will likely be required, based on the results from additional sampling.

GHAs 23 and 23A have additional sample submission requirements for the lungs and trachea (windpipe) of deer or elk harvested in these areas. These samples are required to test for presence of Bovine Tuberculosis.

Feeding or Baiting Wild Cervids

Feeding or baiting wild cervids in all the above noted GHAs is illegal for everyone in Manitoba. Hunters are also prohibited from baiting cervids elsewhere in Manitoba, and feeding is not recommended. Information about why this is not recommended, is available in Manitoba’s Wildlife Smart fact sheet, Don’t Feed the Deer.

Possession of Cervid-derived Substances

Possession of any substance containing cervid bodily fluids (including urine, feces, saliva or scent glands) is prohibited in Manitoba.

Restrictions on Cervids Harvested Outside Manitoba

It is illegal for everyone to bring any deer, elk, moose or caribou harvested in another province or state into Manitoba unless the head, hide, hooves, mammary glands, entrails, internal organs and spinal column are first removed and left in the province or state of origin.

Deboned or processed meats are allowed. Antlers are allowed if they have been detached from the connecting bone plate, all hide and other tissue has been removed, and they have been treated with a solution of not less than 2% chlorine. Detached, unprocessed hides and capes are allowed if they are stored in a sealed, waterproof container from which no fluid, tissue or hair can escape and if they are being delivered to a tanner or taxidermist for processing no later than five days after entering Manitoba.

Submitting samples

Where is Sampling required?

By law, hunters are required to submit biological samples (head and upper neck) of elk and deer taken in the areas of GHA 22 west of PTH 83, as well as GHAs 5, 6, 6A, 11, 12, 13, 13A, 18 and 18B (west of PR 366), 18A, 18C, 23, 23A and 27. Please submit samples within 48 hours of harvesting to any of the department’s Drop-off Depots.

The department is reviewing the CWD sample program and additional sampling will likely be required in the near future to determine disease prevalence, both from within the current mandatory zone and elsewhere.

Additional Samples Requested

The department is interested in also testing samples from hunter harvested deer, elk and moose from along the southern USA border.  Hunters who harvest an elk, moose or white-tailed deer taken in GHAs 28, 29, 29A, 31A, 31, 33, 35 or 35A, are requested to submit biological samples as part of the CWD Surveillance Program. CWD samples from other areas of the province can also be submitted for testing. 

Where can I drop off my samples?

There are sample drop-off depots located throughout the province. Depot locations can be found here.

This list will be kept up-to-date as additional drop-off locations are added. Please submit samples within 48 hours of harvesting. Hunters are advised to call ahead to confirm the depot operation hours.

What information do you need?

When submitting your sample, you will be expected to provide the date of kill, exact location of the kill, sex of the animal and contact information. Please keep your Sample Number as this will allow you to confirm testing results.

How will I be notified?

If a hunter’s sample tests positive for CWD, they will be immediately notified by phone. All results of hunter harvested samples will be posted on our website. Hunters will find their test results via the Sample Number provided when they submitted their head for CWD testing at a drop-off depot. The province will be making every effort to expedite results, and more information will be released soon so hunters will know how to get their results quickly. The actual time to get test results will depend on the volume at the lab but it can take a few weeks. Options for additional testing capacity are being explored.

Sample Test Results

Sample test results for CWD will be posted on this website as they become available.

To confirm the result of a test, compare the Sample Number– located on the top-left corner of the Wildlife Sample Receipt Form to the list of CWD sample test results.

A sample reporting as “Negative for CWD” means that CWD was not detected in the sample. If a sample tests “Positive for CWD”, hunters will be immediately notified by phone and results made public. Public health agencies recommend that hunters not consume CWD positive animals.

Some samples may be reported as “Untestable.” This may be for a number of reasons:

  • the wrong tissue type was submitted
  • the sample was missing, decomposed or damaged

To ensure successful testing of samples, submit samples within 48 hours of harvesting.

If the sample number is not listed, it is likely still being processed. If you have lost your sample number, or have questions about your CWD test results, please contact the Manitoba Natural Resources and Northern Development Wildlife Lab in Dauphin at 204-638-4570 or email.

CWD Sample Test Results