CWD Watch

CWD Hunters' Toolkit

It is important for all hunters to be educated and knowledgeable about chronic wasting disease (CWD). Hunters' actions play an important role in reducing the spread of CWD and providing safe, healthy food for themselves and their families. As you prepare for the 2019 deer hunting season, check out our new CWD Hunters' Toolkit

CWDWatch features a series of resources related to College of Veterinary Medicine research and response to chronic wasting disease, which is causing deep concern for hunters, landowners, and members of the public where CWD affects deer and other cervid populations.

CWDWatch is the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety's fall 2019 Emerging Issues feature.  Here we provide scientific and animal health-based evidence to help you understand what is known and not yet known about CWD and its impact across the upper Midwest.  Check back in throughout the fall for additional resources, including conversations with experts, a CWD toolkit for hunters, and video presentations.

What is chronic wasting disease?

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CWD is a neurological disease affecting the cervid family. This includes white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, and reindeer.

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The most obvious sign of CWD is weight loss. Other symptoms include poor balance, drooling, confusion, and drooping ears.

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Prion Disease

CWD is a prion disease. These occur when normal proteins in a healthy animal or human are misfolded into abnormal shapes.

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Infectious prions can be shed through an infected animal's saliva, blood, feces, urine, and antler velvet.


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CWD Conversations is a series from CAHFS and the Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach (MNPRO) highlighting key facts about chronic wasting disease. 

Stay tuned for future conversations and interviews with Minnesota DNR scientists, the diagnostic development team, state legislators, Minnesota landowners, and human health experts.


Chronic wasting disease can easily spread in nature, and it can take up to 2 years for CWD to kill an infected animal. But why is that?


CWD has been found in 10 MN counties since 2002: Aitkin, Stearns, Lac qui Parle, Olmsted, Ramsey, Fillmore, Crow Wing, Meeker, Winona, and Houston

A researcher makes adjustments to prototype of a CWD diagnostic tool

Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach (MNPRO)

MNPRO is a hub within the College of Veterinary Medicine for combatting chronic wasting disease at the University of Minnesota. As an incubator for cutting-edge prion research, MNPRO brings together a range of UMN faculty and external collaborators with expertise in prion diseases, animal health, cellular biology, nanotechnology, and infectious disease.

Future Research 

  • advanced prion decontamination strategies
  • real-time rapid CWD diagnostics and surveillance
  • ecological remediation strategies for soil and vegetation
  • vaccine development
  • assessment of zoonotic potential of CWD


New! UTalks – Spotlight Science: Chronic Wasting Disease

U of M and Minnesota DNR scientists gathered on September 14th for the Spotlight Science event at the Bell Museum. Check out these UTalks from CWD researchers on key topics around the disease. 

CWD Updates

To receive further updates and notifications of new CWDWatch materials, subscribe to the CAHFS Weekly Update

Twitter: @CAHFS_UMN
Facebook: /CAHFSUMN


CWD Resources

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Board of Animal Health
United States Geological Survey
  • CWD Map: expanding distribution of chronic wasting disease

University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy



CWD Conversations and CWDWatch is produced by the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety with support from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Board of Animal Health, and Minnesota Elk Breeders Association.

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In the Media

LETTER TO EDITOR: Rep. Green references debunked CWD research | Park Rapids Enterprise
November 8, 2019

Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of CIDRAP, pens a rebuttal to the discredited hypothesis that CWD could be caused by bacteria, rather than by prions.

Oversight Hearing: Chronic Wasting Disease | U.S. House Committee on Appropriations
October 17, 2019

Peter Larsen, PhD, testified at an oversight hearing for the the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

Chronic Wasting Disease in SE Minnesota | Fillmore Country Journal
September 16, 2019

The Eagle Bluff Learning Center in rural Lanesboro, Minnesota hosted an educational talk September 8 on the topic of Chronic Wasting Disease, led by speaker Peter Larsen, PhD.

With $2 million in state funding, UMN hopes to develop hand-held, real-time CWD test | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
September 16, 2019

The newly formed Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach (MNPRO) within the U of M College of Veterinary Medicine, is the school’s first step in developing real-time diagnostic tests to help stop the contagion.

MN provides $1.8 million for CWD research and test development | College of Veterinary Medicine
June 12, 2019

With Governor Walz’s signature, just over $1.8 million will flow from the Minnesota Environmental Trust Fund to support the development of a rapid and reliable diagnostic test for Chronic Wasting Disease. If successful, the two-year effort will lead to a portable device capable of field testing a variety of samples for the presence of CWD. 

Combatting chronic wasting disease | CVM Profiles
Spring 2019

Chronic wasting disease has spread across the United States over the past 50 years and is currently found in 26 states. But U of M researchers have been collaborating to stop CWD in its tracks.

"Zombie deer disease," a mad cow-like infection spreading in the US, explained | Vox News
February 21, 2019

“It is important to remember that [this] is a neurodegenerative disease — not a Hollywood zombie disease,” said Peter Larsen. 

New test could speed up detection of fatal brain disease in deer | MPR News
February 1, 2019

MPR News interviewed Dr. Peter Larsen and Jeremy Schefers about new CWD diagnotic tests. Current testing methods for CWD is laborious, but the new testing methods could be a gamechanger.