Hunters reminded to help keep Arizona free of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
Posted December 14, 2021
Arizona’s deer and elk populations remain free of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) due to diligent surveillance efforts.
PHOENIX — With big game seasons still taking place through the end of January, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking hunters to continue doing their part to help keep Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) at bay. CWD is a fatal wildlife disease that affects the nervous system of deer and elk.
All successful deer and elk hunters are encouraged to bring the head of their harvested animal — especially bucks and bulls — to any department office statewide between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To schedule a drop-off time, send an email to CWD@azgfd.gov or call Jon Heale, wildlife health biologist, at 623-236-7227.
The preferred method for storage is to place the head in a heavy-duty plastic trash bag, and keep it cold or frozen until it can be sampled. The department also requests hunters to provide accurate hunter information (name, telephone number), as well as hunt information (hunt number, game management unit in which the animal was harvested, state and hunting license number). This information is crucial should CWD be detected in a sample.
Department officials did not find any cases of CWD in the nearly 1,600-plus deer (mule and white-tailed) and elk that were harvested by hunters and voluntarily submitted for testing in 2020. In addition to hunter submissions, the department collects samples from across the state through partnerships with meat processors and taxidermists.
Game and Fish has been testing for the presence of the disease in Arizona since 1998 and has tested more than 25,000 samples. While CWD has been found in the neighboring states of Utah, New Mexico and Colorado — and as recently as last month in western Idaho — the disease has not been detected in Arizona. CWD has not been documented to cause disease in people.
CWD is transmitted and spread by animal movement and direct contact, which means the illegal importation of a cervid carcass or parts with brain or spinal column tissue of an infected animal could introduce the disease into Arizona. To that point, an individual is only allowed to possess, transport or import the following portions of cervids lawfully taken in another state or country:
- Boneless portions of meat, or meat that has been cut and packaged.
- Clean hides and capes with no skull or soft tissue attached.
- Antlers, clean skull plates or skulls with antlers attached with no meat or soft tissue remaining.
- Finished taxidermy mounts or products (hunters may ship their harvested animal to a taxidermist)
- Upper canine teeth with no meat or tissue attached.
- Do not bring the brain, intact skull or spinal column of a deer or elk harvested in another state back into Arizona.
It may take longer than a year before an infected animal develops symptoms of CWD, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness and other neurological symptoms. CWD can infect animals of all ages, although it’s most frequently noticed in older animals and can affect males more than females. CWD is fatal, and there are no treatments or vaccines.
All hunters are advised not to shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick. Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing deer or elk. All hunters are asked to contact the department at 1-800-352-0700 if they see or harvest an animal that appears to be sick.
For information about importation of harvested animals in other states, contact that state’s wildlife management agency. For more information about CWD, visit the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website at http://cwd-info.org/.