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 1997-2018 by GFP and Wind Cave National Park consisted of 7,351 elk, 6,122 mule deer and 13,590 white-tailed deer and 2 moose.

Three hundred and ninety-seven animals (203 deer, 194 elk) tested positive for CWD during this time period.

Animals tested from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 by GFP and Wind Cave National Park consisted of 459 elk, 15 mule deer, and 272 white-tailed deer. Thirty-seven animals tested positive for CWD during this CWD surveillance period. Twelve deer and 12 elk were found by South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks that tested positive for CWD. Wind Cave National Park found 13 elk that tested positive for CWD.

As of June 30, 2018, a total of 27,063 wild deer and elk have been tested for CWD in South Dakota and 194 elk and 203 deer have been found to have the disease. All CWD detected to-date in free-roaming wildlife has been in southwestern South Dakota and includes Lawrence County, Pennington County, Fall River County, and Custer County, Wind Cave National Park, and Custer State Park. 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.

One of the strategic plan priorities for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 is to enhance the Department’s efforts to manage CWD in deer and elk across the state and launch a strategic communications plan to educate and inform public about the safety, risks and any new regulations.

This topic was brought up at the July 2018 Commission meeting.  The presentation from that meeting is available here and the audio from that presentation can be found here.  An update was then provided at the November 2018 Commission meeting.  The presentation from that meeting is available here and the audio from that presentation can be found here.  Another update was given at the January 2019 Commission meeting.  The presentation from that meeting is available here

An internal workgroup was created to lead and discuss CWD-related topics and is made up of staff from the big game program, communications, law enforcement, Custer State Park, administration as well as Commission representation. As part of the public involvement process, a stakeholder group has also been developed to provide input on a draft action plan which will then be available for internal and public comment.  The first stakeholder meeting occurred on November 28, 2018 in Pierre.  Notes from that meeting can be found here.  

As a part of the stakeholder meeting there were multiple presentations given.  A presentation regarding an overview of the disease and it's presence in South Dakota is available here. The second presentation was by South Dakota Assistant State Veterinarian, Dr. Mendel Miller, regarding captive non-domestic mammals.  This presentation can be found here.  

CWD Open Houses

Throughout the month of March 2019, seven open house events were held across the state regarding CWD.  The information from these events is available below.


A 20-30 minute presentation kicked off the event.  This presentation can be found here.


Numerous handouts were available for attendees.  These handouts can be found below.

Frequently Asked Questions

CWD Overview

CWD Timeline

CWD Surveillance

CWD Biology

CWD Preventitive Measures

CWD Timeline

The following timeframe outlines upcoming activities related to public involvement and development of the CWD action plan:

March 12-26:  Held seven public open house meetings across South Dakota.                   
April – May:  Continued communication and outreach needs with taxidermists, processors, hunters, conservation groups, and other stakeholders.  Include CWD information and BMPs in deer and elk applications.       
April:  Provided 1st draft plan to GFP staff, CWD stakeholder group and public.   
May:  Held CWD stakeholder group meeting; incorporated feedback from GFP staff, stakeholder group and public comment period.   Meeting Notes
June 6-7:  Present final draft action plan to GFP Commission and allow for public comment period.
July 8-9:  Ask GFP Commission for plan adoption and present Department recommendations related to applicable administrative rules.
October 3-4:  Ask GFP Commission to finalize proposed rule changes that would go into effect for the 2020 deer and elk hunting seasons. Provide hunters and public with best management practices.  Communication and outreach efforts to hunters and public before any new regulations go into effect in 2020.