Overview

The Alberta government began conducting voluntary surveillance for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in farmed and wild cervids in the fall of 1996.

On August of 2002, the Mandatory CWD Surveillance Program became effective in Alberta. The program requires cervid owners to submit the heads for CWD testing from all farmed cervids over one year of age that die for any reason.

Purpose and objectives

The purpose of the mandatory surveillance program has changed over the years. Alberta farmers wanted to show that farmed cervids were free from CWD to gain access to external markets for cervids and cervid products.

Since 2005 cases of CWD in wild cervids have been detected along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, suggesting that CWD has become established in the free-ranging deer population. The goal of demonstrating provincial freedom from CWD is no longer justified.

CWD surveillance in Alberta is now primarily used by individual producers and marketers to provide confidence that the herds of origin are unlikely to be infected with CWD.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • monitor farmed cervids in Alberta for CWD
  • support cervid producers enrolled in the CWD Herd Certification Program
  • provide a level of assurance of CWD freedom for individual cervid farms
  • provide an indication of risk of CWD in farmed cervids in Alberta for industry as a whole

Producer responsibilities

All cervid farmers in the province and veterinarians dealing with the industry are encouraged to read the program guidelines to understand their responsibilities for CWD surveillance:

Alberta Mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Program guidelines (PDF, 224 KB).

Producer responsibilities include:

  • ensuring that the entire head or appropriate tissue samples are submitted for each animal that is over one year of age that dies for any reason, including:
    • commercial and non-commercial slaughter
    • disease
    • accident
    • culling
    • euthanasia
  • ensuring that animals that are being euthanized or slaughtered are killed in a manner that does not render the obex of the brain unsuitable for testing
  • complying with the Livestock Industry Diversification Act, which enables the licensing of diversified livestock farms
  • contacting the district veterinarian at the nearest CFIA office and calling the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian within 24 hours if the owner or person in possession, care or control of the cervid, suspects that it has CWD. Find out how to report CWD.

Submitting samples

Producers are required to submit cervid heads to any Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) laboratory (Edmonton, Fairview, Airdrie, and Lethbridge) in a timely manner. However, samples must be submitted no matter how long the animal has been dead.

Fill out the submission forms to be submitted with the heads or samples. Download the CWD Surveillance Submission Form (PDF, 41 KB).

Ensure all samples are appropriately identified. The unique AF approved cervid tag must be left in the ears of all heads that are submitted for CWD testing, unless alternate arrangements have been approved by AF. Appropriate documentation identifying the animal ID must accompany all tissue samples that are submitted.

Make every effort to submit samples in a condition that is suitable for testing by the laboratory,

Submitting more than 10 heads

Producers must give Agriculture and Forestry 24 hours’ advance notice if they are submitting more than 10 heads at any one time:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-422-1923
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)

More than 20 heads: For larger slaughter numbers, a letter of understanding between the producer/person organizing the slaughter and AF is required and must be signed at least 2 weeks before the slaughter date.

Alberta CWD test results

Table 1. Total Alberta farmed cervids tested for CWD in Alberta by calendar year

* Other: reindeer, fallow deer, antelope, moose

Year Elk (Wapiti) Whitetail deer (WTD) Mule deer Other* Total Non-negative CWD
2020 1,851 50 0 2 1,903 12 (elk)
2019 2,098 73 0 4 2,166 3 (2 WTD, 1 elk)
2018 1,995 191 0 1 2,187 1 (elk)
2017 1,832 117 0 3 1,952  
2016 1,574 116 0 5 1,695 1 (elk)
2015 2,271 225 0 11 2,507 3 (elk)
2014 1,917 268 18 11 2,214  
2013 2,262 273 0 3 2,538  
2012 2,112 310 0 6 2,428  
2011 2,483 569 3 9 3,064  
2010 4,019 742 21 6 4,788  
2009 4,235 848 18 11 5,112  
2008 5,147 1,087 26 36 6,296  
2007 4,860 1,005 2 77 5,944  
2006 5,878 708 32 75 6,693  
2005 6,997 860 59 45 7,961  
2004 6,640 1,144 72 48 7,904  
2003 7,000 1,727 38 46 8,811  
2002 3,912 1,035 10 32 4,989 3 (2 WTD, 1 elk)
1996-2001 1,063 371 36 14 1,484  

Contact

Connect with the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays
Phone: 780-427-3448
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
After business hours: 1-800-524-0051
Fax: 780-415-0810

Address:
O.S. Longman Building
6909 116 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T6H 4P2

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