Surveillance strategies for detecting Chronic Wasting Disease in free-ranging deer and elk: Results of a CWD surveillance workshop

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Executive Summary

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal brain disease of North American deer and elk, has recently emerged as an important wildlife management issue. Interest and concern over the spread of this disease and its potential impact on free-ranging cervid populations has increased with discovery of the disease in numerous states and provinces. Current studies suggest that CWD may adversely affect of these highly visible, socially desirable, and economically valuable species. Despite the lack of evidence that CWD affects humans or livestock, a significant concern has been the perceived risk to humans and livestock. Uncertainty about whether CWD poses a health risk to hunters and their families who consume venison has resulted in testing of free-ranging cervids for CWD. In response to many of these concerns, wildlife management agencies across the nation have undertaken surveillance programs to detect CWD in their cervid populations. The nation-wide costs for an extensive CWD surveillance program have been estimated at several million dollars.

This document provides guidance on the development and conduct of scientifically sound surveillance programs to detect CWD in free-ranging deer and elk populations. These guidelines will not apply equally to all jurisdictions. In many cases local circumstances, resources, area(s) of concern, disease risk, animal and landscape ecology, political, social, and many other factors will influence the objectives, design, and conduct of CWD surveillance programs. Part I of this report discusses the importance of management goals, strategies, and disease risks in developing a surveillance program. Part II describes surveillance methods, steps in designing a sampling strategy to detect CWD, alternative collection methods, and statistical considerations. Part III describes costs (personnel, time, and money) associated with implementation of these plans that will influence program design. Part IV outlines research that is needed to further development of CWD surveillance methods. Unfortunately in dealing with CWD, many important biological facts are still unknown and further research will be required to answer these questions. In most situations surveillance strategies suggested may require several years to complete, will require careful consideration of management objectives, and extensive operational planning in order to be meaningful and to be scientifically based.

Suggested Citation

Samuel, M.D., Joly, D.O., Wild, M.A., Wright, S.D., Otis, D.L., Werge, R.W., and Miller, M.W., 2003, Surveillance strategies for detecting chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer and elk—results of a CWD surveillance workshop: U.S. Geological Survey Conference publication,

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Workshop
  • Participants
  • Background and Assumptions
  • I. Formulating a CWS Surveillance Strategy
  • II. Surveillance Methods and Sample Design for CWD Detection
  • III. Operational Activities and Costs of Surveillance
  • IV. Research Needs for Improved Surveillance
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1. National Surveillance for Chronic Wasting Disease: A Technical
  • Appendix 2. Sampling Designs for Surveillance
  • Appendix 3.Effect of Spatial Distribution of CWD and Sampling Locations on Detection Probability
  • Appendix 4. Sample Size Required for Detecting CWD with Random Sampling
Publication type Book
Publication Subtype Conference publication
Title Surveillance strategies for detecting Chronic Wasting Disease in free-ranging deer and elk: Results of a CWD surveillance workshop
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center
Publisher location Madison, WI
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 41 p.
Conference Title Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Workshop
Conference Location Madison, WI
Conference Date December 10-12, 2002
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details