May 20, 2024

Chronic Wasting Disease Detected in California Deer

Article Contact: Barry Snell,

Why It Matters: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a slow and progressive neurological disease occurring in free ranging and farmed cervid species (deer, elk, moose, etc.) that is always fatal, and is spreading across North America. This disease is a massive threat to cervid populations which threatens quality hunting experiences as well as opportunities to put food on the table. Sportsmen and women in California now find themselves in the middle of the fight against the spread of CWD.


  • On May 7, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) issued a news bulletin stating that the first confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in California was discovered after samples collected from two deer were tested. The first deer was found in Madera County near Yosemite Lakes and the other in Inyo County, near Bishop.
  • CDFW has been monitoring California elk and deer populations for CWD through lymph node sampling and testing since 2000, testing over 6,500 deer and elk, and has been working to increase surveillance efforts, with the help of hunters, taxidermists and meat processors since 2018.
  • The disease is spread from cervid to cervid through direct contact, or contact with saliva, feces, or carcass parts from an infected animal.

Deer hunting is one of the longest standing sporting traditions in this country, is the primary driver of our hunting economy, and is also one of the largest drivers of hunting license sales, which impacts the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding. To put this into perspective in California, in 2023 alone, sportsmen and women generated over $32 million for conservation funding through the purchase of hunting licenses.

CWD is a fatal neurologic disease in cervid animals such as deer, elk, moose and reindeer.  It affects the brain, causing progressive damage and eventually death. There is no effective treatment or vaccine to combat this disease.

With the inclusion of California, CWD has now been detected in 34 states. For hunters that travel across their state or the country in pursuit of a buck or bull of a lifetime, we need to remember that only de-boned meat, antlers, skull plates cleaned of any soft-tissue, hides, and ivories should be transported from areas known to harbor CWD. While our state and federal legislatures and fish and wildlife agencies work to prevent the spread, we as hunters must take responsibility and do our part in ensuring the sustainable future of cervid populations so that future generations of hunters can enjoy the same pursuit.

CWD is an issue of grave concern across the United States, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to work with the California DFW, the California Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and our in-state partners to assist in minimizing the impact of CWD in the Golden State.

States Involved:

View All news

Back TO All

In Season


Stay current with the latest news, policy activity and how to get involved.

Sign up for Newsletters


Donate today so we can keep fighting for tomorrow!

Donate Now