Citizen Scientist Opportunity For Hunters

The Alberta Environment and Parks Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance program is looking for volunteers to participate in a pilot program. This pilot program will instruct deer, moose and elk hunters on how to collect tissue samples for CWD testing and evaluate the accuracy of collecting the required samples. We are looking for 500 volunteers to participate for the 2021-2022 season – sample kits and training will be provided.

Please contact [email protected] to register for this program or with any questions.

CWD news and updates

  • CWD Updates

    Get the latest updates, maps, and news releases, as well as background information about CWD in Alberta.

What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a serious disease that kills members of the deer family such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose.

For more information on Chronic Wasting Disease and Alberta's CWD management strategy, see:

  • Chronic Wasting Disease

    Basic information on CWD, as well as information about freezer locations where you can turn in harvested deer heads for testing.

Deer head submission and CWD testing

Hunters play an important role in Alberta's CWD monitoring by submitting heads of harvested deer for CWD testing.

Step One: Deer head submission

Hunter CWD surveillance starts with the submission of hunter-harvested deer heads along with the geographic coordinates where each deer was killed in Alberta.

  • Depending on where in Alberta you are hunting, deer head submission for CWD testing is either mandatory or voluntary.
    • Be familiar with the CWD testing requirements for the area that you are hunting in.
    • For a map illustrating mandatory CWD testing areas in Alberta, see Related Information below for CWD Freezer Locations (Deer Hunters: Assist Us With Our CWD Surveillance).
  • If possible, please do not shoot deer in the head, as this can damage the lymph nodes and brain samples needed for testing. A usable sample consists of the entire head but you can remove the antlers and antler skull plate and not damage the required tissues.
  • Please remove the neck just behind the head – so the head takes up much less space in the freezer!
  • Do not remove and submit only the brain.
  • For so-called ‘European’ mounts, submit the following tissues:
    • All tissues from the roof of the mouth at the back of the throat (this must contain the necessary lymph nodes), and
    • The part of the brain that contains the connection between the spinal cord and the brain (this lies ~5 cm inside the big hole at the back of the skull)

Bag the two samples separately and then put the two bags together in a third bag. This keeps all tissues from one animal together.

  • Keep the deer head (or tissue samples as above) frozen.
    • You can drop off the frozen head at any Fish and Wildlife office in Alberta (during regular office hours)
    • During fall rifle seasons there are 24-hour freezer locations where heads can be dropped off. See Related Information below for CWD Freezer Locations (Deer Hunters: Assist Us With Our CWD Surveillance).
  • Every head submitted for CWD testing must have a green CWD identification label fixed to it (see below).
  • The freezers contain bags and green CWD identification labels for you to fill out (bags and labels also are available at Fish and Wildlife offices). It is very important that you:
    • Fill out both sides of the CWD label, providing as much detail as possible regarding the location of the submitted sample (GPS, Sec/Twp/Rge, or latitude/longitude) in addition to the Wildlife Management Unit [WMU])
    • Provide your complete personal contact information, so that we can contact you with test results
    • Fasten the CWD label securely to the head of the deer.
    • Keep the bottom part of the label as your record of the CWD number that identifies each specific deer head.

Note: Heads submitted for CWD testing are not returned to the hunter.

If you want to keep the antlers, you MUST take off what you want before you submit the head!

Carcass disposal

All hunters should properly dispose of their harvested carcasses, particularly animals taken in the CWD Risk Area. Where possible, debone meat making sure you keep the required evidence of sex and species. Hunters may prefer to avoid the spinal cord when deboning. Leave remainder of carcass at the kill site. If the carcass is transported elsewhere, remove all useable meat, then burn, bury, or dispose of the remains in a landfill.

Related Information

Step Two: Deer head testing

Hunters who submit deer heads and who have an AlbertaRELM account will receive an email when their test results are available.

Wait times for test results differ depending on when heads are submitted (early heads get early results) and how many other heads are received in the same time period. On average, the Alberta program receives ~2500 heads each week of November but it takes about a month to test 2500 heads, with reduced flow during the holidays in late December and early January. Heads received after mid November generally are tested in January and February.  

Since 2019: Positive CWD results are now sent to the email address provided in your AlbertaRELM account. Hunters who harvest CWD positive deer and do not have an email address in their account will be notified by phone.

Note: Negative results are only sent to the email address in your AlbertaRELM account.

All hunters are encouraged to set up an AlbertaRELM account, and to make sure that the email address in their account is current.

  • All CWD laboratory testing in Alberta is conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (AF).
  • CWD test results are reported to the Fish and Wildlife Division of Environment and Parks (AEP) on an ongoing basis.
  • All hunters who submit heads for CWD testing will be informed about results on their deer. Watch for a notice of test results sent to the email address in your AlbertaRELM account.
  • Ongoing public notification of positive cases in wild deer in Alberta is provided on AEP’s CWD web pages.
  • Data collected from CWD surveillance is used to determine the geographic boundaries, magnitude, and rate of spread and magnitude of the disease in Alberta. These data also are used to support ongoing management as well as research done in conjunction with the University of Alberta to better understand this disease.

Related Information

  • AlbertaRELM

    Online access for hunting and fishing licences and information. NOTE: CWD TEST RESULTS ARE NOT PROVIDED IN A HUNTER’S RELM ACCOUNT.

  • CWD Updates

    Review this page for the following information:

    • Chronic Wasting Disease in Wild Deer in Alberta since September 2005 – Maps illustrating CWD cases in wild deer in Alberta from September 2005 to present.
    • Statistics: CWD in Wild Deer in Alberta - A list of all CWD cases in wild deer in Alberta.
  • Alberta Mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Program

    Information regarding CWD programs for farmed cervids as delivered by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.