Operation to control and monitor chronic wasting disease in cervids
Last update: January 21, 2019
Following the detection of cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) on a red deer farm in the Laurentides region, the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) is implementing measures to protect wild cervid herds and is seeking the collaboration of individuals in this respect.
Although the disease was discovered on a deer farm, it is necessary to ascertain whether it is present in wildlife and to limit the risk of its spreading in cervid populations. To this end, the CWD monitoring and control operations implemented in the fall will continue in the control area (CA) beyond November 18, 2018, the date until which hunting and trapping were suspended.
Consult the interactive map
Enhanced monitoring area
Registration station for sampling – until November 18, 2018
Temporary registration station for sampling – until November 27, 2018
Control area for GPS (.gpx file)
Warning: The boundaries on these maps are provided for information purposes only and to facilitate the cartographic dissemination of information. In the event of a conflict between such boundaries and the legal descriptions of the entities represented, the latter shall prevail.
|AREAS||MEASURES AND INSTRUCTIONS|
|Control area (CA)||
|Enhanced monitoring area (EMA)||
|45-km radius (outside the CA and EMA)||
- Chronic wasting disease – Threat to cervids in Québec
- Results: Samples from animals harvested by hunters, collected at butchers in Montérégie
- Results: Samples from animals harvested by hunters, collected at butchers in Estrie
Frequently asked questions
* Recent addition or modification
* How many cases of CWD have been confirmed?
Eleven (11) cases of CWD have been confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on a farm in the Laurentides region. All the farm’s animals were slaughtered by December 18, 2018.
The fact that several cases were detected on the same deer farm reinforces the importance of the interventions and measures introduced by the MFFP. The MFFP’s priority is always to ensure that the disease is not present in wild deer, and to decrease deer density in areas peripheral to the farm so as to reduce the risk that the disease will spread to and become established in the wild population.
So far, none of the tests carried out on wild deer have been positive.
Has CWD monitoring occurred elsewhere in Québec?
Since 2007, the MFFP has carried out a wild deer monitoring program in sectors deemed at the greatest risk of the introduction of CWD, that is, in the southernmost portion of Québec. The program has continued this year.
In light of the recent presence of CWD in Québec, the MFFP has enhanced monitoring of the disease in wildlife by broadening the monitoring network. Other administrative regions have been added in which conditions such as heavy white-tailed deer population densities and the presence of exotic cervid farms are contributing to increasing the risk of the disease’s appearance.
Hunters can consult their result by using their transportation coupon number as a reference.
Please note that all of the deer cut up in participating butcher shops were not systematically analyzed. Samples were collected from deer more than 12 months old and on which the transportation coupon was still attached to the animal’s head.
* What was the outcome of the wildlife operations carried out in the fall of 2018 in the CA and EMA?
750 animals were slaughtered in the CA. Only animals over 12 months of age were tested because it is difficult to detect the disease in the first year after infection.
In all, 538 deer from the CA and 510 deer and moose killed by hunters in the EMA (results ) were tested. None of the tests were positive.
The conclusion from this is that the disease, if it is in fact present near the infected farm, has not contaminated many wild deer, and above all, that it has not been established for many years in these sectors. This suggests that the establishment and spread of the disease can still be prevented – something that would not have been possible if it had spread to the surrounding wildlife.
Why continue to cull wild deer if no case has been detected in wildlife?
While no case of CWD has been detected until now among wild cervids, it is impossible to exclude beyond all doubt that the disease is present since: 1) it is very difficult to detect CWD when few deer are contaminated and 2) the tests conducted do not usually detect the disease in animals infected for less than 12 months.
Efforts to avoid any risk of the disease establishing itself in wildlife must, therefore, be pursued. It should be noted that the long-term consequences of the establishment of CWD in wild cervid populations could be major and disastrous for the herds and for hunting activities in Québec. The removal of potentially infected animals and the reduction in cervid populations in the CA facilitate a reduction in the risk of establishment of CWD and are the only means of fighting this insidious disease.
A single infected animal left in the wild can transmit the disease to other cervids if it comes into contact with them, which will invariably lead to the multiplication of cases and the establishment of the disease.
* Will the other animals at the infected farm be killed and tested?
Yes, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a herd depopulation order. The animals were slaughtered using procedures established by the CFIA, in collaboration with the farmer and provincial authorities. The process was completed on December 18, 2018.
Are hunting and trapping again allowed in the CA?
Yes. The prohibition on hunting was in force until November 18, 2018. Hunting and trapping are now allowed in keeping with existing regulations.
However, we wish to remind hunters and other users of land located in the control area (CA) to be cautious and stay on the roads starting at nightfall since culling operations take place in the late afternoon and at night.
Why were the deer sampled in the CA that tested negative not given to a food bank?
In the control area (CA) where cases of CWD were discovered on a deer farm, there is a higher risk of wild deer being contaminated by CWD. Specific measures must be adopted to handle and transport the carcasses of the deer sampled to avoid contamination of the natural environment through the dispersal of contaminated fluids. In this specific context, the deer cannot be eviscerated quickly once killed, which makes them unsuited for human consumption and explains why they cannot be given to food banks. The carcasses are then treated by means of the requisite sanitation measures and are transported and incinerated by a specialized company.
Is there any reason to install a fence around the site?
It is advisable to limit contact between wild cervids and an infected animal or site. Since initiatives are under way to eliminate all of the animals on the infected farm and the densities of wild deer populations in the vicinity of the pen continue to be reduced, the risk of contamination of wild animals is greatly reduced. Furthermore, under the order of the CFIA, the pens on the infected farm may have to be decontaminated.
How are the operations being carried out in the control area?
The MFFP’s operations seek to ensure that CWD does not establish itself in wild cervid populations. Consequently, the MFFP must cull a significant number of animals.
Since this is the first field intervention for CWD, the MFFP has assigned operations in the controlled intervention zone to Wildlife Protection, which is following the recommendations of its biologists, and is acting in collaboration with a well-known American consultant with more than 20 years of experience in cervid population management. To maximize the effectiveness of the interventions, specialized culling techniques are being used according to strict procedures. Such techniques are not authorized in Québec except pursuant to the special operation under way, for which specific authorizations have been granted.
What impact will the culling have on the deer population in the CA?
The culling of numerous deer in the CA is intended to 1) remove potentially infected animals from the wild, especially those in which the disease can be in the incubation stage and contagious (without visible clinical signs since the signs appear only after a lengthy incubation period, ranging from 17 to 36 months); and 2) lower the density of deer in the sector to reduce the number of animals that could come into contact with an infected animal.
The removal of potentially infected animals and the reduction in the cervid populations in the CA facilitate a reduction in the risk of spreading this insidious disease and are the only means of combatting it.
In the coming years, hunters will be asked to contribute to maintaining population densities at the desired level.
White-tailed deer are a productive, resilient species. It is estimated that the deer population in the CA could regain its initial density in several years once the control and monitoring operations have ended.
Why not ask hunters to carry out the operations in the CA?
In this confined zone, where there is a higher risk that wild cervids carry the disease, intervention by a limited team of specialists to carry out sampling was essential. This was justified, in particular, by the significant number of deer to be culled in a short time. The presence of numerous hunters in the territory, in addition to posing a public security problem, would have altered the deers’ behaviour, thereby reducing the operation’s success. What is more, very stringent sanitation measures had to be adopted to limit any risk of contamination.
However, the collaboration of hunters was required in the enhanced monitoring area (EMA) where the analysis of the cervids hunted was mandatory. In this zone, hunters facilitated the analysis of 465 white-tailed deer and 23 moose. No test on wildlife has proven to be positive.
Will hunting again be prohibited in the CA next year?
At present, it is not anticipated that white-tailed deer hunting will be prohibited in the CA next year. The measures that will be implemented will be specified before the next hunting season.
What does the MFFP intend to do if a case of CWD is found in wildlife?
If a cervid infected with CWD is found in the wild, the regulation that stipulates restrictions on the movement of cervids kept in captivity within a radius of 100 km and the regulation respecting the movement of certain anatomical parts within a radius of 45 km around a site where CWD has been found will apply. The situation will be assessed to determine if other measures must be adopted to respond to the new problem.
How to butcher a cervid and prevent the spread of CWD?
What measures apply to sites with animals in captivity?
Current regulations prohibit the movement of a cervid in captivity within 100 km of a site where the presence of CWD has been detected, unless it is being transported to a slaughterhouse.
Are the measures applicable to the movement of certain anatomical parts of cervids hunted within a 45-km radius of a confirmed CWD site still in force?
Yes. To prevent the possible spread of the disease, the regulation stipulates the restrictions concerning the movement of certain anatomical parts of cervids (white-tailed deer, moose or farm-raised cervids) culled with a 45-km radius of a confirmed CWD site (see map ). Accordingly, it is still prohibited to move the following anatomical parts from the 45-km radius:
- the head, more specifically any part of the brain, the eyes, the retropharyngeal lymph nodes and the tonsils (at the base of the jaw);
- any part of the spinal column;
- the internal organs (including the liver and the heart);
- the testicles.
The following anatomical parts can be removed from the 45-km radius:
- the meat, provided that it does not contain any of the targeted anatomical parts;
- the hide with the fat removed or tanned;
- velvet-free antlers;
- the disinfected calvaria,1 without skin, meat or tissues attached;
- the teeth, without meat or tissues attached;
- any part mounted by a taxidermist.
1 To disinfect the calvaria, soak it for 15 to 20 minutes in a solution comprising at least 2% sodium hypochlorite (generally speaking, the solution corresponds to a mixture of 50% bleach and of 50% water).
What should be done if a deer that seems to be sick is observed?
Contact SOS Poaching at 1-800-463-2191 if you observe a cervid whose appearance or behaviour is unusual.
Can hunters consume their game without fear?
CWD is not considered transmissible to humans, but consuming or using tissue from an infected animal is not recommended. However, the consumption or use of the tissues of an infected animal are not recommended. Cooking does not destroy the prion.
In the so-called “enhanced monitoring area,” the MFFP is collecting and analyzing samples from all of adult cervids harvested in the zone (white-tailed deer and moose). The results have been communicated to hunters.
The risk of CWD being present elsewhere in Québec is negligible, so meat can be consumed. As a general rule, consumption of the brain, spine, and lymph nodes is not recommended.
Must special precautions be taken when preparing a deer or a moose?
Game meat, like any domestic meat, is highly perishable and can harbour microorganisms that cause foodborne illness. It is, therefore, important to properly handle and preserve game meat and to abide by certain standards governing the cutting up of game.
- Wear gloves when handing, eviscerating and skinning game.
- Wash your hands and clean surfaces and instruments that have come into contact with the game to avoid contaminating other consumer products.
- Cook the meat. This is an effective way to eliminate certain risks of foodborne illness. However, cooking cannot destroy the prion. It is important to cook the meat until the cooking temperature reaches 77°C (171°F).
- Store the meat at safe temperatures (between 0°C and 4°C) to prevent the growth of bacteria
Moreover, certain additional precautions can be taken to minimize contamination by tissues that can naturally concentrate the agent of the chronic wasting disease of cervids (CWD).
- Minimize contact with the brain and spinal cord.
- Do not consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, intestines and lymph nodes (green or grey tissue masses near organs and in the fat) of the animals harvested.
- Eviscerate game at the killed site by removing all of the internal organs.
- Promptly take the animal to a butcher’s shop or follow the instructions to prepare the game as safely as possible. If the animal has been killed within a 45-km radius, it must be butchered when possible within this radius and in your hunting zone.
- Avoid cutting across the spinal column and the bones, except to remove the head. Detach the head with a knife, then disinfect the knife. Use a bone saw as little as possible.
Can the head or the calvaria of the cervid killed be kept within a 45-km radius?
To avoid the possible spread of the disease, the regulation stipulates restrictions concerning the movement of certain anatomical parts, especially the brain. The following instructions must be observed for all white-tailed deer and moose killed within a 45-km radius of a confirmed CWD site (see map ):
- the head of a cervid killed within a 45-km radius must be given to a taxidermist doing business within the same radius and in the hunting zone where the animal was killed;
- the calvaria can be removed. Ensure that it is disinfected and that all of the skin, meat or tissue attached to it is removed. To disinfect the calvaria, soak it for 15 to 20 minutes in a solution comprising at least 2% sodium hypochlorite (generally speaking, the solution corresponds to a mixture of 50% bleach and 50% water)
To learn about good taxidermy practices that prevent the spread of CWD, please consult the Taxidermie et désinfection des instruments video on the MFFP website.
How do we prevent the introduction and spread of CWD?
There are no known treatments or vaccines for prion diseases. Once CWD is introduced into wildlife, it is extremely difficult to eradicate.
To keep the disease from being introduced into Québec through cervids hunted outside the province, the Ministry has implemented regulations on the import of cervid carcasses.
Regulations on the import of cervid carcasses
The import and possession of whole carcasses or any part of the brain, spine (and spinal cord), retropharyngeal lymph nodes, eyes, tonsils, testicles, or internal organs (spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, mammary glands, bladder, etc.) of cervids (except caribou) killed outside Québec is prohibited. Pathogenic prions are concentrated in these organs in cervids with CWD.
The following animal parts, however, may be brought into Québec:
- Boneless meat or skinless quarters with nospine or head attached
- Degreased or tanned hide and leather
- Antlers without velvet
- Disinfected skull caps1 with noskin, meat, or tissue attached
- Teeth without meat or tissue attached
- Any part mounted by a taxidermist
1 – To disinfect the skull, soak it in a solution containing at least 2% sodium hypochlorite (generally, this solution corresponds to a mixture of 50% bleach and 50% water) for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you hunt outside Québec, the Ministry also recommends you:
- Avoid hunting in or near areas where CWD has been detected.
- Quelles sont les bonnes pratiques que les chasseurs et les citoyens peuvent adopter?
What best practices should hunters and residents follow?
To prevent the spread of CWD in Québec, the Ministry also advises hunters and the general public to:
- Use synthetic attractants.
If collected from infected animals, natural deer urine may contain the CWD infectious agent.
- Avoid encouraging cervid herding.
Non-naturally occurring herds of cervids promote transmission of the disease. Baiting should be kept to a strict minimum, and cervids should not be fed for recreational purposes.
To prevent the spread of the disease by hunters, Québec regulations prohibit, in areas in the vicinity of a confirmed case of CWD, the possession of certain animal parts outside the hunting zone where the animal was killed. Butchering should therefore be done near the kill site in these areas. Also, to prevent the disease from spreading between captive cervid breeding facilities, regulations also prohibit large cervids from being moved to another contained site if the animals are kept in a facility within 100 km of a site where CWD has been found or suspected.
Does the MFFP intend to prohibit the use of natural lures?
Current regulations allow hunters to use odiferous substances. However, in conjunction with the revision of the white-tailed deer management plan, the question of the use of natural lures is being assessed. In the meantime, the MFFP is asking hunters not to use lures containing natural urine or other cervid body fluids. No test exists to confirm that commercially sold lures do not harbour the disease. Products collected from animals suffering from CWD would appear to contain the infectious agent. It is essential for everyone to contribute to limiting the spread of the disease.