Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Yellowstone National Park Mule Deer

Yellowstone National Park has released the following news about the discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in an adult mule deer buck found in the park.

Recently, the park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) confirmed the presence of CWD in the carcass of a mule deer buck near Yellowstone Lake in the southeastern area of the park. This marks the first confirmed detection of the disease in Yellowstone National Park.

The mule deer buck was initially captured near Cody, Wyoming, in March 2023 as part of a study on population dynamics and fitted with a GPS collar. The collar showed that the deer died in mid-October 2023. WGFD, in coordination with Yellowstone staff, located the carcass at the Promontory, collected samples, and tested them at the WGFD’s Wildlife Health Laboratory, yielding positive results.

Management Plan

Yellowstone staff will take the following steps to manage the spread of the disease:

  • Collaborate with WGFD and other state agencies to identify high-risk areas for CWD within the park.
  • Enhance monitoring of deer, elk, and moose in the park for the presence of CWD.
  • Investigate and test carcasses to gather more data.

Understanding CWD

  • CWD is a fatal, contagious disease affecting deer, elk, and moose caused by a deformed protein (prion) with no known cure.
  • The deformed prion protein accumulates in the brain and other tissues, causing physiological and behavioral changes that lead to emaciation and death.
  • Signs of CWD include listlessness, weight loss, and behavioral changes.
  • The disease spreads through direct and indirect contact among animals and environmental exposure.
  • It has become widespread in Wyoming since the mid-1980s and affects many animals near Cody, Wyoming, that migrate into Yellowstone during summer.
  • The long-term impact of CWD on wildlife in Yellowstone is uncertain.

Visitor Guidelines

  • Though most wildlife in Yellowstone is healthy, if you see any sick or dead animals, notify a National Park Service (NPS) employee immediately and avoid contact.
  • Avoid handling or touching sick or dead animals, as they may carry disease-causing organisms that can spread to people.
  • NPS employees trained in wildlife health have specific measures to handle animals that may have died of disease.
  • Avoid consuming any part of an animal suspected or confirmed to have CWD.
  • While there is no evidence that CWD affects humans or domestic animals, it is advised not to consume tissues from infected animals.


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