Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Massachusetts
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Massachusetts Project

A risk assessment of chronic wasting disease in Massachusetts and the proactive development of a communication strategy for MassWildlife and wild cervid stakeholders in Massachusetts

October 2021 - September 2022


Participating Agencies


Emerging infectious diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), force decision-makers to make decisions in the face of large uncertainty and risk. Under these pressing circumstances, two important tactics and tools for decision-makers are: (1) obtaining buy-in from stakeholders and (2) formal risk assessments, which predict the potential distribution of a novel pathogen in new habitats. In an effort to prevent CWD from spreading into Massachusetts (MA), the MA state wildlife agency, The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), is implementing several proactive management strategies (e.g., regulations to restrict whole carcass importation of deer, improving and focusing on standards for cervid farming); however, it is unclear whether there is stakeholder buy-in or how effective this management is. Therefore, to address these barriers, we propose:
(1) To assess existing wild cervid stakeholder perceptions, behaviors, and misconceptions using a survey. We will develop and disseminate a survey that reaches 9,500 wild cervid stakeholders in MA.
(2) To examine patterns and trends related to wild cervid stakeholder perceptions, behaviors, and misconceptions, we will analyze the data obtained from the wild cervid stakeholder survey (obj. 1). This will enable us to extract patterns and trends.
(3) To identify areas of high risk for CWD introduction, establishment, and spread in MA, we will conduct a risk assessment based on host and prion ecology.
(4) To obtain wild cervid stakeholder buy-in and trust, we will:
- update the MA CWD response plan with the results of the wild cervid stakeholder survey (obj. 1 & 2) and the risk assessment (obj. 3),
- develop a communication strategy that will be used to help MassWildlife engage more regularly with wild cervid stakeholders, and
- disseminate the results of the wild cervid stakeholder survey (obj. 1 & 2) and the risk assessment (obj. 3) to wild cervid stakeholders as applicable.
Collectively, our objectives aim to promote transparency and open the lines of communication between the state of MA and wild cervid stakeholders. More specifically, this proposal aims to engage wild cervid stakeholders prior to CWD invasion, generate a communication strategy based on what wild cervid stakeholders are seeking (and using the modalities of communication they prefer; learned from the survey), and obtain stakeholder buy-in for proactive and reactive CWD management.