Photo © USFWS

What's Being Done?

CWD Action Plan

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission has adopted an action plan to address chronic wasting disease in deer and elk herds across the state.  The action plan can be found here.

What is being done about CWD in South Dakota?

Eliminating CWD is difficult, given the limited understanding of its cause and transmission and the lack of any vaccine or treatment.

The Animal Industry Board established specific requirements after CWD was first diagnosed in private, captive elk herds to prevent further introductions or recurrences in private, captive elk and deer herds. All captive herds that were infected or exposed have been depopulated, and a voluntary cervidae (deer and elk) CWD surveillance and control program for captive cervids is now being implemented.

Joint management strategies for CWD have been aimed at intensified surveillance to determine to what degree CWD occurs in free-roaming animals. GFP, in cooperation with South Dakota State University and Wind Cave National Park, tested hunter-harvested animals, vehicle killed animals, sick animals, and research animals starting in 1997. Emphasis has been placed on testing elk and deer from areas near previously quarantined CWD private elk herd sites, areas where CWD has been found in wild animals, and sick animals from anywhere in South Dakota.

Animals tested from 1997-2020 by GFP and Wind Cave National Park consisted of 7,772 elk, 6,529 mule deer and 15,494 white-tailed deer and 3 moose.

Five hundred forty-six animals (306 deer, 235 elk) tested positive for CWD during this time period.

Animals tested from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 by GFP and Wind Cave National Park consisted of 185 elk, 370 mule deer, and 1,419 white-tailed deer. Ninety-five animals tested positive for CWD during this CWD surveillance period. Seventy-three deer and 8 elk were found by South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks that tested positive for CWD. Wind Cave National Park found 13 elk and 1 deer that tested positive for CWD.

As of June 30, 2020, a total of 29,795 wild deer and elk have been tested for CWD in South Dakota and 235 elk and 311 deer have been found to have the disease. All CWD detected to-date in free-roaming wildlife has been found in 16 counties in western and central South Dakota and include Bennett, Butte, Corson, Custer, Fall River, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Meade, Mellette, Lawrence, Lyman, Pennington, Sully, Tripp, and Ziebach counties. Sick deer from several areas of the state are being tested as part of our CWD Surveillance Program, and no CWD has been found in other areas in South Dakota.

South Dakota agencies, in cooperation with citizens of the state, will continue to keep a close watch for the disease and determine its distribution and prevalence. This program will incorporate testing of hunter-harvested deer and elk, as well as sick deer and elk that are found and reported to GFP. The AIB will continue its CWD control and monitoring program involving private, captive elk and deer herds.

  • Ongoing surveillance programs are expensive and draw resources from other wildlife management needs.
  • Impacts of CWD on population dynamics of deer and elk are presently unknown. Computer modeling suggests that CWD could substantially reduce infected cervid populations by lowering adult survival rates and destabilizing long-term population dynamics.
  • Where it occurs, CWD may alter the management of wild deer and elk populations, and it has already begun to do so.
  • Ultimately, public and agency concerns and perceptions about human health risks associated with all TSE’s may erode hunter confidence and their willingness to hunt in areas where CWD occurs.