Wildlife Health

Understanding animal health requires information about diseases and parasites occurring in individuals and populations over time. Hunters and anglers are excellent sources for information about wild animal health, and the Ministry of Environment (MoE) Wildlife Health Program needs their input - videos, written/verbal descriptions, or photographs - please pass it on! If you see something or would like to know more about wildlife diseases, please refer to the following:


Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease of the central nervous system that can affect members of the cervid family (deer, elk & moose). It is considered the most important disease in wildlife management in North America. Sick animals show weight loss and changes in behaviour, including drooling, difficulty swallowing, poor coordination, stumbling and trembling. CWD is present in some wild deer and elk herds in Saskatchewan, and wild mule deer in southeast Alberta. At this time, CWD has not been found in BC.

The MOE CWD Program is focused on preventing the entry of CWD into BC. If CWD enters BC, hunting will likely change forever - CWD is almost impossible to eradicate. While there is no proof that CWD is a risk to humans, as a precaution the World Health Organization recommends infected animals not be eaten. New research suggests CWD is transmitted from cervid to cervid through the environment - if infected parts are left in the field, contaminated soil may infect other animals in the area. This is an important finding for CWD prevention in BC!

MOE conducts annual CWD monitoring, sampling thin, sick, road- and hunter-killed animals. If you see any cervid exhibiting signs of CWD - please contact us! Sampling efforts are focused along the BC/Alberta border in the Peace and East Kootenay regions. Hunters in these regions are requested to submit heads for voluntary testing, so stay in touch through our Wildlife Health website and your local sportsman clubs. This summer the MOE RAPP Program is emphasizing the importance of the CWD Program to the health of our cervid herds, and how hunters can reduce the risk and prevent its entry into BC.

The CWD Program strongly advises the following to reduce the risk of CWD entry BC:

1. If you hunt in areas where CWD occurs - DO NOT return to B.C. with the intact carcass - process it on-site to prevent moving the disease:

  • Remove the head, hide, all internal organs and spinal column at the kill site, and leave these parts in the place of origin - submit the head to local agencies for CWD testing.
  • De-bone or have the meat processed prior to removal from the place of origin.
  • If you want to keep antlers, remove them, any soft tissue and the connecting bone plate from the remainder of the skull, and soak in 2% bleach.
  • Raw capes or hides should be sealed in a waterproof container to ensure that no fluids, tissue or hair can escape. They can be brought into B.C. but should be frozen or processed as soon as possible.
  • DO NOT dispose of carcasses in the field if they are from elsewhere, use landfills for proper disposal.
2. Materials from cervids such as scents or attractants, including urine, feces, saliva or scent glands, may be capable of transmitting CWD through environmental contamination. We recommend that synthetic scents be used to reduce the risk.

Human Health Risks or Zoonotic Diseases

Information on diseases that affect human health such as West Nile virus, Avian Influenza or Lyme's disease, visit our interactive site Diseases You Can Get From Wildlife or the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Please view the following links for additional information on wildlife and animal health: