Alberta Mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Program

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 Producer responsibilities | Useful links

The Alberta Mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Program requires CWD testing of all cervids one year of age and older that die from any cause. This program was instituted in 2002 at the request of Alberta's farmed cervid industry and is maintained by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD).

The purpose of the surveillance program has changed over the years. It was initiated to provide evidence of disease freedom for the entire provincial farmed cervid population in order to gain access to external markets for Alberta farmed cervids and cervid products. Since the mandatory program began, the CWD disease situation in Alberta has changed. The primary factor causing the change was the diagnosis of CWD in free ranging mule and white-tailed deer in 2005 in Alberta along the Saskatchewan border. Since that time, there have been 94 cases of CWD identified in free ranging deer in Alberta suggesting that CWD has become established in the free ranging deer population. The goal of demonstrating provincial freedom from CWD is no longer justified. CWD surveillance in Alberta is now primarily used by individual producers and marketers to provide confidence that the herds of origin are unlikely to be infected with CWD. The program required review and modification to update it from the original version from 2002.

A new version of the program has been completed and is ready for distribution. The review and update was conducted by a Review Team of cervid industry and government representatives. To assist in review, the opinions of US state veterinarians and provincial chief veterinary officers were collected through an online survey to determine whether proposed changes to the Alberta CWD surveillance program would affect Alberta cervid farmers’ ability to export cervids.

Fifty of the 60 jurisdictions surveyed responded. The main conclusions of the survey were that CWD surveillance in farmed cervids is important to access external markets for Alberta cervids and cervid products and that mandatory CWD surveillance of all cervids over a certain age maximizes the number of jurisdictions that will accept Alberta cervids.

The new Alberta Mandatory CWD Surveillance Program will retain the same principles as the previous program and will allow more flexibility in sample submission. The objectives of the updated program are:

  1. Disease detection:
    1. Monitor farmed cervids in Alberta for CWD (detect cases if they occur).
  2. Market access:
    1. Support cervid producers enrolled in the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program.
    2. Provide a level of assurance of CWD freedom for individual cervid farms.
    3. Provide an indication of risk of CWD in farmed cervids in Alberta for industry as a whole
The key elements of the updated program include:
  • All producers will continue to be required to submit samples for CWD testing from all elk, deer and reindeer that are over one year of age that die for any reason including slaughter.
  • Updated terminology to reflect current acts and regulations.
  • The operator or owner responsible for the herd must report to the CFIA and the Office of Chief Provincial Veterinarian within twenty four hours if he/she recognizes signs that could suggest the presence of CWD in a deer or elk when the animal is more than twelve months of age.
  • The program allows more flexibility in submission of samples for testing. In the previous program, farmers had to submit the entire head or have his/her veterinarian or animal health technologist collect and submit samples. These options remain, however, the updated program allows for other people to collect samples (after proper training and approval), removal of the skull plate to save antlers (leaving the brain sample intact and preserving the eartags on the head), and alternative identification methods of the head if it is to be skinned at the farm.
  • The definitions on the lab samples have also changed.
The changes are effective immediately. A copy of the complete program is available to download from Ropin’ the Web at

All cervid farmers in the province and veterinarians dealing with the industry are encouraged to read the updated program to become familiar with the changes that have been adopted and to understand their responsibilities for CWD surveillance. The program is designed to assist cervid farmers access markets and create opportunities in the industry. Please do you part to make it a success.

Producer Responsibilities Under the Alberta Mandatory CWD Surveillance Program

Under this mandatory program, cervid farmers are responsible for ensuring that the entire head, or appropriate tissue samples are submitted for each animal that is over one year of age and:

  • dies (for any reason) on the farm; or
  • is culled or euthanized; or
  • is slaughtered in Alberta.
Cervid producer responsibilities under LIDA that are integral to the Mandatory CWD Surveillance Program include:
  • License renewal;
  • Submission of all reports (birth, deaths, movement, other transactions);
  • Submission of an accurate annual herd inventory;
  • Appropriate animal containment.
  • Submission of the original individual animal certificate to RSD upon the animal’s death
Other producer responsibilities include:
  • Contacting the district veterinarian at the nearest CFIA office and calling the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian within 24 hours if the owner or person in possession, care or control of the cervid, suspects that it has CWD.
  • Filling out the submission forms to be submitted with the heads or samples. To download a pdf version of the CWD submission form, click here (76K).
  • Ensure that all samples are appropriately identified. The unique ARD cervid tag must be left in the ears of all heads that are submitted for CWD testing and/or the appropriate documentation identifying the animal ID must accompany all tissue samples that are submitted.
  • Cervid farmers must make every effort to submit samples in a condition that is suitable for testing by the laboratory, however, samples must be submitted no matter how long the animal has been dead.
  • Producers are encouraged to submit heads in a timely manner.
  • Animals that are being euthanized or slaughtered should be killed in a manner that does not render the obex of the brain unsuitable for testing.
  • ARD requires 24 hour advance notice if producers are submitting more than 10 heads at any one time. In the case of large slaughter numbers (> 20 heads), a letter of understanding between the producer/person organizing the slaughter and ARD is required and must be signed at least two weeks before the slaughter date.
Useful Links

Food Safety and Animal Health Division
Chief Provincial Veterinarian
Alberta's CWD Update

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Hernan Ortegon.
This document is maintained by Ana Ulmer-Franco.
This information published to the web on May 25, 2011.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 23, 2012.