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

Wisconsin Wildlife Project

CWD Deposition and Environmental Reservoirs

September 2014 - February 2016


Participating Agencies

  • Contaminants Program

Potential management of CWD has been hindered by the lack of key information about disease transmission. First, little information exists about when and in what amounts infected animals shed CWD agent, thereby infecting other animals and depositing infectious agent into the environment. Second, although the environmental route of transmission is known to be important in captive deer, no information exists on potential environmental deposition by infectious deer or potential environmental reservoirs of CWD infection for susceptible wild deer. The primary reason these issues have not been addressed is the lack of robust and sensitive methods to detect CWD in animal or environmental samples. However, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation and USGS, we have recently developed highly sensitive laboratory diagnostic methods (called protein misfolding cyclic amplification or PMCA) that provide a practical solution to this problem. We propose to investigate the environmental deposition of CWD agent in the infected area of south-central Wisconsin. Specifically, we will evaluate the presence and level of CWD prions at mineral licks frequented by deer, at deer scrape sites, and in feces of wild deer. The goal of our study is to identify and determine the relative importance of alternative environmental sources of CWD that function as potential reservoirs for infection in deer, or potentially other domestic animals that contact these reservoirs.