Photo © USFWS

What's Being Done?

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.

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.

A CWD action plan and any recommended changes to administrative rule to meet the above described objectives will be presented to the Commission in March 2019. This timeframe will allow for any regulation changes to become effective for implementation during the 2019 deer and elk hunting seasons.