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Elk ImageChronic Wasting Disease was first recognized as a clinical "wasting" syndrome in 1967 in mule deer in a wildlife research facility in Northern Colorado. It was identified as a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) in 1978. In 1981, CWD was detected in a wild elk and in 1985 it was detected in a wild mule deer in Colorado. Further surveillance showed the disease was present in wild deer and elk in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. For many years CWD in wildlife was thought to only occur in this region, referred to as the "CWD endemic area." Beginning in 1997, wildlife agencies conducted CWD surveillance in wild, free-ranging deer and elk leading to the detection of CWD outside of the historic endemic area.  APHIS provided federal funding to the wildlife agencies to support this surveillance from 2002-2011.

By January 2015, CWD had been reported in free-ranging, wild deer, elk, and moose in the following states: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. View a map depicting states with CWD in the free-ranging cervid populations.

CWD was detected in a farmed elk herd in South Dakota in 1997. Since then, additional positive farmed elk and deer herds have been identified in following states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin. View a map depicting states with CWD in farmed/captive cervid herds.