Wildlife - Deer - Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)


Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible or contagious, always fatal, neurological disease that affects members of the cervid, or deer, family of animals. CWD has been detected in 26 states, but not South Carolina or an adjacent state.

SCDNR is working to keep South Carolina CWD free. Hunters, landowners and the public play key roles in keeping this disease out of our state and should be aware of regulations limiting the use of urine-based lures and importation of certain carcass parts from other states.

Regulations regarding deer lures, scents and attractants:

Regulation 123-54 states that no person shall possess or use for the purpose of taking, attracting, or scouting any wild animal in South Carolina any substance or material that contains or purports to contain any excretion collected from a cervid (deer) including urine, feces, blood, gland oil, or other body fluid. This does not prohibit the use of synthetic products or substances collected by a hunter from deer legally harvested in South Carolina.

Regulations for transport of hunter-harvested deer, elk and moose:

Regulation 123-54 also states that it is illegal to import or possess in South Carolina a whole cervid carcass or carcass part from an infected state, except for the following: quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; meat that has been boned out; hides with no heads attached; clean (no meat or tissue attached) skulls or skull plates with antlers attached; antlers (detached from the skull plate); clean upper canine teeth from elk, also called “buglers,” “whistlers,” or “ivories;” and finished taxidermy heads.

For more information, please find Frequently Asked Questions regarding CWD below:

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible or contagious, always fatal, neurological disease that affects members of the Cervidae (deer) Family. Common members of this family include white-tailed deer, elk, mule deer, moose, caribou, red deer, and fallow deer. The only wild free-ranging member of the deer family found in South Carolina is the white-tailed deer. Currently, there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans or domestic livestock. The disease is not caused by a virus or bacteria, but is rather the result of a naturally occurring protein, called a prion, which becomes misfolded and thus resists being broken down by the body the way normal proteins are. When these misfolded proteins are introduced into a healthy cervid, they multiply by causing the animal’s normal and healthy prion proteins to misfold and begin damaging the animal’s nervous system. Prions associated with the disease are found throughout the body of infected animals, but are found in higher concentrations in the eyes, lymph nodes, and nervous tissues like the brain and spinal cord.

CWD is one of a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. (TSEs). Other TSEs include mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep, feline spongiform encephalopathy in cats, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and variant (vCJD) in humans.

Clinical signs appear 1.5 to 3 years after exposure and include excessive salivation and grinding of teeth, increased drinking and urination, dramatic loss of appetite, weight and body condition, poor hair coat, and head tremors. Infected animals develop odd behaviors including decreased interaction with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, walking in circles, staggering, and standing with a wide stance. Prior to the onset of clinical signs, deer infected with CWD can appear normal and healthy. Infected animals are shedding infectious prions during this period before being symptomatic and showing clinical signs.

CWD has not been shown to be infective to humans. Current research indicates that there is a robust species barrier that keeps CWD from being readily transmitted to humans. In fact, there are several other species that don’t seem to contract CWD either, like cattle and pronghorn. However, laboratory studies have shown that the CWD infective prions can be forced to morph into a form that may be infective to humans, and it has been shown that other primates (macaques) can contract the disease by consuming meat from CWD infected deer. Therefore, the current recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is that humans should not consume meat from known infected animals.


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