Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Mandatory Testing For Certain Hunt Codes in 2021

CPW has selected specific deer and elk hunts for mandatory chronic wasting disease testing to inform how and where to fight the spread of CWD.
Mule Deer.
Deer and elk hunters can keep an eye on mailbox for chronic wasting disease mandatory testing letter.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has selected specific deer and elk hunts for mandatory chronic wasting disease testing in 2021 to inform how and where to fight the spread of CWD.

Beginning in early October, CPW will be sending letters to Colorado rifle season hunters who have been selected for mandatory CWD testing. CPW will require mandatory submission of CWD test samples (heads) from all elk and deer harvested during rifle seasons from specific hunts to better evaluate the infection levels of CWD in herds. There will be no charge for mandatory testing. Find the hunt codes selected for mandatory testing of deer on pages 22–32 and elk on pages 41–52 of the 2021 Colorado Big Game Brochure.

CWD Testing Locations and Hours

A complete list of CWD testing submission sites along with hours and locations can be found here: CWD Testing and Submission Information. CPW is continuing the use of temporary CWD submission sites to assist those who are hunting in remote locations.

Where has CWD been found?
The results of mandatory testing are yielding new insights into varying infection levels in deer herds throughout Colorado. As of May 2021, CWD has been detected in 40 of 54 deer herds, 16 of 43 elk herds, and 2 of 9 moose herds. The estimated proportion of sampled animals that are infected (or disease “prevalence”) appears to be rising in many Colorado herds. Read the 2020 Chronic Wasting Disease Annual Report.

Testing in 2020

  • 32 deer herds were included in mandatory testing
  • Over 7,500 samples tested statewide (includes all species)
  • CWD disease prevalence exceeds the 5% in 22 deer herds
  • 9 herds have disease prevalence between 5-10%, 6 herds have disease prevalence between 10-20%, and 7 herds have disease prevalence that exceeds 20%. When disease prevalence is 20%, it means 1 out of 5 adult males are infected
  • Data collected from mandatory testing shows disease prevalence is 2-3 times higher in male deer than female deer

What is CPW doing to address CWD?

CPW is working to ensure the long-term health of deer, elk, and moose herds. Over time, this means minimizing the number of animals that get infected and die from this disease. To date, management actions have been prescribed for 27 deer herds that intend to reduce infection levels to below 5%. More information about our plan to manage CWD is available in the Colorado Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan.

What are the health risks to humans?

CWD is a prion disease that affects Colorado’s deer, elk, and moose. The disease course generally lasts 2 – 3 years and is always fatal. Although there has been no evidence that CWD has yet been transmitted to humans, the Center for Disease Control, along with CPW, recommend that hunters not eat the meat of a CWD-infected animal.

More information about CWD is available on CPW’s website.

More information on prion diseases is available on CDPHE’s website


Travis Duncan is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Denver. Travis has lived in Colorado nearly 20 years and loves the outdoors. If you have a question, please email him at travis.duncan@state.co.us. All Photos courtesy of Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

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