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Recommendations for Hunters Handling and Processing Deer

With confirmation earlier this month that a road-killed deer in Hampshire County tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has received inquiries regarding the safety of consuming venison from this region of the state. The DNR wants every hunter, landowner and consumer of venison to understand there is no evidence to suggest CWD poses a health risk for humans or domestic animals. Concerns relating to CWD should not stop anyone from enjoying hunting season this fall.

While there is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, public health officials recommend that hunters avoid exposure to the CWD agent (i.e., abnormal proteinaceous particles called prions). Hunters are also encouraged not to consume meat from animals known to be infected with CWD. Therefore, the DNR along with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health offer the following common sense recommendations for the safe handling and processing of deer from areas where CWD has been identified. Additional information relating to these recommendations can be found at the CWD Alliance website: www.cwd-info.org.

  • Avoid eating the meat from any deer that tests positive for CWD or is obviously sick (e.g., appears to be very emaciated with poor body condition, presents evidence of excessive salivation, staggering or other displays of abnormal behavior, etc.).
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer, and wash your hands and tools thoroughly after completing this process.
  • Bone out the meat from your deer, do not saw through bone, avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord and minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues. If you remove the skull cap to save the antlers, use a saw dedicated for only that purpose and dispose of saw blades in a landfill with your other household garbage.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize knives, equipment and work areas with household bleach solution after processing your deer.
  • Place unwanted carcass materials (e.g., bones, trimmings, etc.) in a strong garbage bag, and dispose of this material in a landfill with your other household garbage.
  • Avoid eating the brain, spinal cord, eyes, lymph nodes, spleen and tonsils of harvested deer. [Note that normal field dressing combined with de-boning the carcass removes most, if not all, these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue removes the remaining lymph nodes.]

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