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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Fish & Wildlife > Wildlife Resources > Wildlife Diseases > Precautions for Hunters Precautions for Hunters

Stories have spread about hunters in Wisconsin and Colorado dying from brain diseases acquired from eating deer meat, leading many Hoosier deer hunters to question the safety of eating venison and fearing the risk of CWD. Indiana DNR biologists have no reason to believe that any animal in Indiana is infected with CWD, but cannot guarantee that any individual deer is disease free. Samples collected from every Indiana county in 2002 and 2003did not indicate any presence of CWD in the state.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) agree that there currently is no evidence that humans can contract CWD either by handling or consuming infected deer. The WHO reports that, “there currently is no evidence that CWD in Cervidae (deer) is transmitted to humans.” The CDC cautions that, “there is not yet strong evidence that such transmissions could not occur.”

Information to consider in your decision?
To aid you in making decisions about consumption of deer meat, DNR biologists offer the following points to consider:

  • Contrary to some news stories, the CDC has not found any evidence of CWD in the three people in Wisconsin or three people in Colorado who ate venison and died of brain disease.
  • DNR biologists have no reason to believe that any animal in Indiana is infected with CWD.
  • The random sampling of deer in Indiana is being done to determine if the disease exists in the state. It is not being conducted due to human health concerns.
  • DNR biologists do not recommend that hunters wait to eat venison until samples are analyzed.
  • CWD has existed in parts of Colorado and Wyoming for about 20 years. No wildlife researchers who have handled infected animals have become infected.
  • During the same 20 years, hunters have been consuming infected animals that had not advanced to the point where the symptoms were obvious. There have been no cases of CWD found in these hunters.
  • At a national CWD convention in Denver in August 2002, speakers concurred that there is either no health risk of humans contracting CWD, or the risk is significantly less than the other risks that all hunters take when they go hunting (fatal car accidents, falls from tree stands, heart attacks, etc.).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have no evidence that a person can get CWD from an infected deer.
  • The three agencies cannot absolutely guarantee that there will not be a first occurrence in the nation of someone catching CWD from infected deer.

As has always been the case, the decision to hunt and consume wild game must be made by the individual. Most DNR biologists and animal health experts, after weighing this information, will continue to process and eat deer that appear to be healthy just as they have in the past.

When will test results be in?
Sign up for Wild Bulletin to get updates on CWD testing via email.

Reducing risk
The risk of contracting any disease from handling deer or consuming venison is extremely low. There is no known connection between CWD in deer and any diseases in humans. If you would like to take maximum precaution, follow the guidelines below. These guidelines were developed for states where CWD has been identified. CWD is not known to exist in Indiana.

  • Do not eat the eyes, brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of any deer.
  • Do not eat any part of a deer that appears sick.

Field Dressing

  • Wear rubber or latex gloves.
  • Minimize contact with the brain, spinal cord, spleen and lymph nodes as you work. Lymph nodes are the lumps of tissue next to organs or in fat and membranes.
  • Do not use household knives or utensils.
  • Clean knives and equipment of residue and disinfect with a 50-50 solution of chlorine bleach and water.

Click here for more information about field dressing your deer. Available in Adobe Reader (file size = 600K)

Butchering

  • Wear rubber or latex gloves.
  • Minimize handling brain or spinal tissues. If removing antlers, use a saw designated for that purpose only and dispose of the blade.
  • Do not cut the spinal cord except to remove the head. Use a knife designated only for this purpose.
  • Bone out the meat and remove all fat and the weblike membranes attached to the meat. This will also remove lymph nodes.
  • Dispose of hide, brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, bones and head in a landfill or by other means available in your area.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize equipment and work areas with bleach water after processing.

Source: Wisconsin Agriculture Department's Food Safety Division.