can you eat elk meat with CWD

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “can you eat elk meat with CWD?” We will also discuss what is about cwd and their effects on the affected species, as human CWD cases have not been reported until now.

Can you eat elk meat with CWD?

No, it is better to not handle or consume any part of the elk if it looks sick, has deceased from unknown causes, or has been tested positive for CWD. But if the elk does not have any of these characteristics, then you can safely eat its meat.

Even though there have not been any CWD human cases, it is better not to consume a CWD-positive animal.

What is CWD?

Also known as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that affects certain mammals. It is always fatal and highly contagious among certain deer species, moose, and elk. 

Wherever any of the species listed above are infected with CWD, they basically become zombies. This disease eats holes into the brains of the affected animals that will eventually result in:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • And, eventually death

Can CWD affect humans?  

There have not been any reported human CWD cases until now, but there are some TSEs encephalopathies, like CWD, that surely can affect humans. It is very odd to happen, as it only occurs in one out of every million people worldwide, according to official statistics.

 A human TSE is the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that, just as CWD, is lethal. It is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that is caused by prions, wrongly-folded proteins capable of causing several neurodegenerative diseases. 

What are the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)?

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) are some diseases that can affect mammals. TSEs have been detected in:

  • Domestic sheep and goats 
  • Cattles
  • Reindeer
  • Elk
  • Moose

As TSEs occur in several species, their effects vary among them and also the way it is spread.

Can TSEs affect humans?

Yes, several odd human diseases are classified as TSEs. As explained above, a TSE form for humans is the Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD) and its variant (v-CJD) can be acquired by beef consumption during the large TSE bovine outbreak in cattle in Great Britain, the famous “mad cow disease”.

What are the CWD effects on infected animals?

CWD causes several signs as the disease eats holes in the infected animals’ brains. Some may refer as hard to be noticed symptoms, which are:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive urination
  • Pneumonia
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unusual behavior
  • Paralysis
  • Isolation from other animals

CWD-positive animals will generally die in about 6 months to two years, as the disease slowly eats their brains.

Which species are affected by CWD?

According to official facts, the CWD affected species are hoofed animals, such as:

  • North American elk
  • Red deer
  • Mule deer
  • Black-tailed deer
  • Sika deer
  • Reindeer
  • Moose
  • White-tailed deer

It is important to notice that the number of white-tailed and mule deer tends to be higher than in other species.

That is why hunters are encouraged to follow a list of recommendations to prevent any exposure to CWD-infected animals, which will be discussed below.

How is CWD detected?

As CWD symptoms may be very hard to notice, the only way to confirm a CWD infection is until the animal dies. After that, a body part, which is generally the brain, is tested for CWD.

Although the result is negative, the animal may still carry CWD so, you should always be cautious when handling suspected CWD-positive animals.

How can you avoid a potential risk of exposure to CWD?

Hunters should be extremely careful when hunting in CWD affected areas, state agencies have established some precautions and actions to prevent CWD from spreading:

  • Do not have any kind of contact with animals acting abnormally or with sick appearance. Call immediately your state agencies to give notice.
  • Always wear latex or rubber gloves when you field dress your deer or elk.
  • Wash hands and instruments exhaustively after field dressing is done.
  • Avoid consuming any CWD-positive animal.
  • Do not consume any of the following body parts:
  • Brain
  • Spinal cord
  • Eyes
  • Spleen
  • Tonsils
  • Lymph nodes
  •  To inactivate prions, your instruments should be soaked for 5 minutes in a 40% solution of bleach.
  • Try to handle a minimum amount of brain and spinal tissue.

As you can see, some simple indications can prevent you from having any contact with this odd disease, so we encourage you to be extremely cautious when hunting or consuming any of the CWD-affected species.


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “can you eat elk meat with CWD?” We have also discussed other queries related to the subject at hand. 

Hope you found this blog useful. If you have any questions, please let us know.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.