CWD news and updates
Get the latest updates, maps, and news releases, as well as background information about CWD in Alberta.
About 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.
CWD was first detected in a farmed elk and white-tailed deer in Alberta in 2002. The first cases in wild deer were detected in 2005.
Since the first CWD cases were detected in the province, the Government of Alberta has managed an ongoing disease surveillance program to monitor the spread and progression of CWD in wild and domestic cervid populations.
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
CWD surveillance starts with the submission of hunter-harvested deer heads along with the geographic coordinates where each deer was killed in Alberta.
CWD freezer locations
Depending on where in Alberta you are hunting, deer head submission for CWD testing is either mandatory or voluntary, so you should be familiar with the CWD testing requirements for the area that you are hunting in.
During fall rifle seasons there are 24-hour freezer locations where heads can be dropped off. For a map and list identifying the current areas of mandatory deer head submissions as well as the locations of 24-hour freezers in Alberta where hunters can drop off deer heads for testing during fall rifle seasons, see:
CWD Freezer Locations (Deer Hunters: Assist Us With Our CWD Surveillance) – 2022 (PDF, 243 KB)
You may be able drop off the frozen head at a Fish and Wildlife or Environment and Protected Areas office. Office phone numbers are provided at:
Current contact information is also available on pages 12 and 13 of the 2022 Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations.
Preparing a usable deer head submission
If possible, 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.
- 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
Prepare your submission as follows:
- Collect all tissues from the roof of the mouth at the back of the throat (this must contain the necessary lymph nodes)
- Collect the part of the brainstem 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.
Hunters may want to check educational YouTube videos that show how to collect the lymph nodes and obex.
Keep the deer head (or tissue samples as above) frozen. During fall rifle seasons there are 24-hour freezer locations where heads can be dropped off. You may be able to drop off heads at some Fish and Wildlife or Environment and Protected Areas offices (see above).
For information outlining the current fall surveillance program and instructions on making a proper deer head submission, see:
- Deer Hunters: Surveillance of Harvested Deer Heads for CWD – 2022 (PDF, 302 KB)
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!
Preparing a CWD identification label
Every head submitted for CWD testing must have a green CWD identification label fixed to it. The freezers contain bags and green CWD identification labels for you to fill out (labels may also available at Fish and Wildlife or Environment and Protected Areas 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.
An illustration of how to fill out the green CWD identification label for each deer head submission.
- How to fill out green CWD labels (PDF, 115 KB)
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 the 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.
Step Two: Deer head testing
All CWD laboratory testing in Alberta is conducted by the Alberta government. CWD test results are reported to the Fish and Wildlife Division of Environment and Protected Areas on an ongoing basis.
Hunters who submit deer heads and who have an AlbertaRELM account will receive an email when their test results are available. All hunters are encouraged to set up an AlbertaRELM account, and to make sure that the email address in their account is current.
Timing of test results
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.
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.
- 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.
Delivery of test results
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.
Negative results are only sent to the email address in your AlbertaRELM account.
How CWD surveillance data is used
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.
Ongoing public notification of positive cases in wild deer in Alberta is provided on our CWD web pages.
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 the Alberta government.
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