Help Keep Arizona Herds Healthy

Chronic wasting disease has not been detected in Arizona’s deer or elk, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to do everything it can to keep it that way. Hunters can help by providing samples from harvested animals and following requirements when bringing game meat into Arizona from another state. 

what is chronic wasting disease?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always-fatal nervous system disease found in cervids like deer and elk. It can be transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact, contact with saliva, feces, or carcass parts of an infected animal, and even from soil that has been contaminated with the previously mentioned tissues or fluids. To date, chronic wasting disease has been found in wild or captive cervids in 34 states, five Canadian provinces, Norway and South Korea. 

CWD has not been detected in Arizona’s deer or elk, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to do everything it can to keep it that way.

FY 2024 Chronic Wasting Disease Report

is cwd dangerous? What can be done to help?

To date, there is no evidence to suggest that humans can contract CWD, because a similar disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, mad cow), does affect people, there is a concern. Public health officials do not recommend consuming meat products from CWD-positive animals.

If you hunt out of state, you may only bring the following animal parts into Arizona (R12-4-305):

-boneless, meat; 

-packaged meat;

-finished taxidermy mounts; 

-cleaned skulls/skull plates and hides without any meat or soft tissue (this includes velvet); and 

-teeth (buglers, whistlers, ivories) without any tissue attached.

Many of the regulations for other states are available at If you are a nonresident coming to Arizona to hunt: Check with your home state regarding regulations governing carcass movement and importation of meat and wildlife parts. 

State Carcass Transport Regulations

How is the arizona game and fish department protecting deer and elk from cwd?

The best chance for successful management lies with early detection. CWD is spread both directly (animal-to-animal contact) and indirectly (animal makes contact with a contaminated surface or substance). The most common modes of transmission are via an infected animal’s saliva, feces, urine or decomposing carcass.  

Since there is no vaccine for a prion disease like CWD, the options for managing it are extremely limited. The most effective strategies, by far, are those that eliminate ways CWD can travel to new areas by infected animals or infected animal parts. 

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has increased surveillance for CWD and needs hunters’ help. The department is hosting workshops for deer and elk hunters to provide information and demonstrate how to collect and submit the lymph node tissue sampling for testing.

Hunters also can help by bringing the head of a recently harvested deer or elk to any sample drop-off location or Arizona Game and Fish office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (Please call the office prior to arrival.)

Department personnel will collect a tissue sample for CWD testing. It is best if the head is placed in a heavy-duty trash bag and kept cool or frozen until it is submitted. Hunters will be asked to provide information about the harvested deer (hunt number, permit number, game management unit, and date of harvest) and where they can be reached (phone number) in case the test is positive.

Video: How to take a sample

Sample drop-off locations:

Together we can keep cwd out of arizona

You will likely never see animals exhibiting symptoms of chronic wasting disease. Animals in the late stages of CWD are often emaciated, show erratic behavior and exhibit neurological irregularities. However, due to the long, slow advancement of the disease, most infected animals are often killed by predators, vehicles, hunters or other diseases before symptoms of CWD become bad enough for a person to recognize.

If you do see deer or elk that show signs of sickness, report what you observed and the location of the animal to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s 24/7 hotline: 800-352-0700.

learn more about cwd

Thank you for your assistance to conserve and protect Arizona’s wildlife. For more information about CWD or to see state regulations visit

CWD Information for Hunters

What to know before your deer or elk hunt or importing a harvested cervid from another state.

Has the disease been detected in Arizona?

No. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been testing for the presence of CWD in the state since 1998. While CWD has been found in the neighboring states of California, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, the disease has not been detected in Arizona.

When did the department impose regulations related to the importation of legally harvested deer and elk?

The department implemented a rule change in 2013 that outlined the harvested cervid restrictions. R12-4-305 was instituted to only allow importation of the following portions of cervids legally harvested in another state:

1. Boneless portions of meat, or meat that has been cut and packaged either personally or commercially; 

2. Clean hides and capes with no skull or soft tissue attached, except as required for proof of legality; 

3. Clean skulls with antlers, clean skull plates, or antlers with no meat or soft tissue attached; 

4. Finished taxidermy mounts or products; and 

5. Upper canine teeth with no meat or tissue attached. 

*Note: While only deer and elk are found in Arizona, cervids also include moose and reindeer and these rules apply to all cervids.

What should hunters be looking for related to CWD?

All hunters are advised not to shoot, handle or consume any animal that is exhibiting abnormal behavior or appears to be sick. Wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing deer or elk. All hunters are asked to call the department at 800-352-0700 if they see or harvest an animal that appears to be sick and save the organs except for the intestinal tract by placing in separate ziplock bags.

How should elk and deer parts be properly disposed of?

Anyone who harvests, possesses or processes legally imported cervid meat has an obligation to protect Arizona’s wildlife. All waste should be double-bagged and then discarded at a state-regulated landfill or placed in a receptacle destined for disposal at a state-regulated landfill.

Why is properly disposing of infected scraps and nervous tissue important?

CWD is transmitted and spread by animal movement and direct contact with infected animals or their remains. The disease-causing agent is present in all of the tissues of an infected animal and concentrated in the brain, spinal cord and lymph nodes. 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.

What can meat processors and taxidermists do to further communications about this issue with their customers?

If meat processors and taxidermists are contacted by customers prior to their hunts, they should share with customers the necessary steps to comply with the rule.

Are wildlife managers citing people for violations of these rules?

Officers take the appropriate law enforcement action based upon the totality of circumstances related to any given issue.

What can a hunter expect if contacted by a wildlife manager while importing deer or elk from another state?

The main purpose of the rule is to protect Arizona’s wildlife and minimize the chances of importing CWD into the state through hunter-harvested animals from out of state. The department’s goal is voluntary compliance with these long-standing regulations. Arizona Game and Fish officers will consider the circumstances of each contact and take appropriate law enforcement actions for violations of this rule. These actions may include any combination of the following: a citation, a written warning, and/or provide guidance on how to be in compliance.

Are Arizona meat processors and taxidermists responsible for ensuring the rules are followed for animals transported from another state?

No. Any violation of the rule that might occur would be in the hunter’s importation of the animal, not in the possession of the animal by the meat processor or taxidermist.

Can a hunter who legally harvests deer, elk or another cervid in another state bring antlers in velvet into Arizona?

Yes, however, velvet antlers contain blood and soft tissue so necessary steps must be taken. To be in compliance, the antlers must be stripped of velvet prior to entering the state or the velvet must be treated. Freeze drying or injecting the antlers with a formaldehyde solution are the two most common methods of preserving velvet. It is recommended that hunters consult with a licensed taxidermist to discuss options to have the velvet preserved prior to bringing the antlers to Arizona. Following these steps to properly prepare the meat, hide and head will allow for hunters to legally bring a harvested animal into Arizona and deliver it to their game processor or taxidermist.

Can a hunter who legally harvests a deer or elk in another state bring it into Arizona?

Yes, as long as the animal has been processed and complies with the restrictions identified in R-12-4-305.I and listed above.

Want to Go Hunting in Arizona?

Find ways to experience big game and small game hunting or find a mentored hunt camp.

buy your hunting license

Arizona residents and non-residents 10 years and older need a valid hunting license to hunt in Arizona.

buy now

find a mentored hunt camp

The award-winning Outdoor Skills Network is your source for public, hands-on, “learn how to hunt” events.

view the outdoor skills page

Subscribe to our Newsletter