Photo © USFWS

What's Being Done?

Management of CWD in South Dakota

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) Commission has adopted management actions and best management practices to address chronic wasting disease in deer and elk herds across the state. 

The “Management of Chronic Wasting Disease in South Dakota” is a comprehensive document that provides a historical background, known distribution, surveillance, public outreach, challenges and opportunities, and citizen involvement related to CWD.  This document can be found here.

The “South Dakota Chronic Wasting Disease Action Plan” is a concise document that provides management guidance for the GFP Commission and staff.  This document 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 (AIB) 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 1997-2022 by GFP and Wind Cave National Park consisted of 8,013 elk, 7,069  mule deer, 17,796 white-tailed deer and 3 moose.

During this time period, 663 animals (274 white-tailed deer, 130 mule deer and 259 elk) tested positive for CWD.

Animals tested from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 by GFP and Wind Cave National Park consisted of 118 elk, 221 mule deer, and 975 white-tailed deer. Fifty-four animals tested positive for CWD during this CWD surveillance period. Forty-four deer (31 white-tailed deer and 13 mule deer) and 5 elk were found by South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks that tested positive for CWD. Wind Cave National Park found 5 elk that tested positive for CWD.

As of June 30, 2022, a total of 32,878 wild deer and elk have been tested for CWD in South Dakota and 259 elk and 404 deer have been found to have the disease. All CWD detected to-date in free-roaming wildlife has been found in 19 counties in western and central South Dakota and include Bennett, Buffalo, Butte, Corson, Custer, Fall River, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Lawrence, Lyman, Meade, Mellette, Pennington, Perkins, Stanley, 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.