Carcass movement, processing and disposal
The movement of dead or alive CWD-positive deer, moose, elk or reindeer/caribou (natural or human-assisted) is a key pathway in the spread of CWD. The infectious nature of the CWD prion contributes to an increased risk of introduction and spread of CWD if dead carcasses are brought to new areas and not disposed of properly.
Find CWD Sampling and Carcass Disposal Locations Near You
Full page view of the CWD sample and disposal locations
Deer parts that may be moved
If not brought to a licensed taxidermist or permitted meat processor within 72 hours after harvest, the following are the only parts from wild cervids legally harvested in the CWD-affected counties [PDF] that may be transported beyond those counties or an adjacent county. These are the same parts that are allowed into Wisconsin from other states and provinces that have CWD.
- Meat that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately).
- Quarters or other portions of meat to which no part of the spinal column is attached.
- Meat that has been deboned.
- Hides with no heads attached.
- Finished taxidermy heads.
- Antlers with no tissue attached.
- Clean skull plates with no lymphoid or brain tissue attached.
- Clean skulls with no lymphoid or brain tissue attached.
- Upper canine teeth (also known as buglers, whistlers or ivories).
The department recommends not transporting whole deer carcasses to areas outside the county or adjacent county where the animal was harvested. Additional recommendations for practices to reduce and prevent the spread of CWD are found in the CWD Transmission Reduction Recommendations document [PDF].
Deer carcass movement into Wisconsin
Chronic wasting disease has been found in wild cervids in the following states and provinces [exit DNR]. Whole carcasses and parts of carcasses from these states and provinces are not allowed into Wisconsin unless taken to a licensed meat processor or permitted taxidermist within 72 hours of entry into Wisconsin. Out-of-state hunters should be aware of their state's carcass restrictions [PDF exit DNR] of deer harvested in a CWD-affected area in Wisconsin before heading home.
The following links are the deer carcass import and movement restrictions for our neighboring states.
Processing your deer
There are extra precautions people can take while processing their deer to reduce exposure to prions from venison.
- Wear rubber gloves.
- Minimize contact with the brain, spinal cord, spleen and lymph nodes.
- Use knives and utensils dedicated to field dressing.
- Remove all internal organs.
- Keep meat from individual deer separate.
- Do not cut through the spinal column except to remove the head. Use a knife designated only for this purpose.
- Remove all the fat and connective tissue. This will also remove the lymph nodes.
- Wash all knives and other equipment with soap and water to remove all organic material and rinse with water.
- Clean knives and other equipment by soaking them for an hour in a 50/50 solution of bleach and water for non-stainless steel items. For stainless steel items soak for a minimum of five minutes.
- Wipe down counters and other work areas with a 50/50 solution of bleach and water, and let them air dry
Additional processing information
- Safe Handling of Deer [PDF] Wisconsin Division of Public Health
- Safe venison handling to prevent illness or injury [PDF exit DNR] Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
- Wisconsin Meat Establishment/Processors Directory [PDF exit DNR]
- Handling the Harvest - Deer processing tutorial (1/2) [exit DNR]
- Handling the Harvest - Deer processing tutorial (2/2) [exit DNR]
Disposing of a carcass
The following options are listed in order of effectiveness and practicality. Options including deer carcass waste disposal dumpsters can also be found on the deer waste disposal sites page.
- Dispose of your deer carcass waste in a landfill, transfer station or deer carcass disposal dumpster. Not all landfills and transfer stations accept deer carcass waste. Refer to the map above to find a nearby location.
- Bury the deer carcass waste, if hunting on your land or private land with landowner permission.
- Return to the location of harvest, if on your land or private land with landowner permission.
- Taking a deer carcass to a taxidermist, meat processor or sampling station
Hunters are allowed to take whole cervid carcasses or any parts of carcasses harvested in the CWD-affected counties or in any state or province where CWD has been found in any part of Wisconsin, provided the carcass or non-exempt parts are taken to a licensed taxidermist or meat processor within 72 hours of registration, or within 72 hours of entering Wisconsin from another state. Licensed meat processors and taxidermists must follow strict rules regarding deer carcass waste disposal, thereby removing the risks associated with improper disposal.
The department does not intend to prevent hunters from moving a deer head outside of CWD-affected counties if that head is being transported to an approved CWD sampling cooperator, self-service kiosk or staffed CWD testing location for the purpose of submitting the head for removal of tissues for CWD testing. After sample tissue has been removed from deer heads submitted via these routes, the heads will be disposed of properly.
- Disposal recommendations for hunters
Landfills are safe, cost-effective options for deer carcass waste disposal. They establish a barrier between uninfected deer and waste that might contain infectious CWD material. This is the preferred disposal option.
Bury the deer carcass waste
Only bury deer carcass waste on private property where you have permission. It should be buried deep enough to prevent scavengers from digging it back up. This places a barrier between uninfected deer and the source of infection.
Return to the location of the harvest
Hunters can leave their deer carcass waste on private property with permission. This option is the last resort. Waste should be left as close as possible to the harvest location, where other deer and scavengers are unlikely to encounter it. Do not move or dispose of the head, spine or other restricted portions outside of the CWD-affected county of harvest unless brought to a meat processor or taxidermist. The head should be brought to a CWD sampling station. It is illegal to dispose of carcass waste on public lands, roadways or private property without permission. Field dressing a deer and leaving the gut pile and associated animal parts on-site on public or private land is still permitted.
- Disposal recommendations for non-hunters
Deer carcass waste collected from generators, including taxidermists, meat processors or other facilities, shall be disposed of in a licensed solid waste landfill. Contact your local Waste Management Specialist if you need further assistance in locating disposal facilities that accept deer carcass waste. Additional information can be found on the deer carcass waste disposal sites page.