U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 43(4), 2007, pp. 784–788.


Deposition of prions into the environment by infected animals may contribute to transmission and spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among free-ranging cervids, and identification of such environmental sources may provide an avenue for managing CWD. We evaluated the role that wallow use by elk (Cervus elaphus) may play in CWD transmission by monitoring wallows with animal-activated cameras throughout their period of use. We monitored 39 wallows from 5 August 2005 to 14 October 2005. Elk visited 20 sites; we recorded 22 events when only male elk wallowed and 374 additional events when male and female elk had naso-oral contact with wallow contents. Because wallows are foci of male elk activity, behaviors at wallows could potentially contribute to the maintenance and transmission of CWD. Our findings, however, suggest that because wallows are only used an average of one or two times a season they may not be important in CWD transmission. The data also suggest that mineral licks could be more important in CWD transmission because they were used more frequently and by three species that contract CWD.