The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for assistance from deer and elk hunters in monitoring efforts for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
Hunters can provide assistance by allowing Game and Fish personnel or a cooperating taxidermist or game meat processor to collect a tissue sample from their harvested deer or elk.
CWD is a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to cervids, which include deer, elk and moose. Clinical signs include loss of body weight or emaciation, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, stumbling, trembling, and behavioral changes such as listlessness, lowering of the head, and repetitive walking in set patterns. No evidence has been found to indicate that CWD affects humans, according to both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
CWD has been detected in 22 states and Canadian provinces as of August 2012. Arizona Game and Fish began conducting CWD surveillance in the state in 1998 and has since collected more than 16,000 samples. No samples have yet tested positive for the disease, but Arizona shares borders with three states—Utah, Colorado and New Mexico—in which CWD has been found.
“The success of the CWD surveillance program is reliant upon the participation of hunters, meat processors, and taxidermists,” said Wildlife Disease Biologist Carrington Knox. “To ensure that CWD has not entered Arizona from neighboring states, we are concentrating our efforts in the game management units that border Utah and New Mexico.”
For Kaibab and Arizona Strip hunters (Units 12A, 12B, 13A, and 13B), the Jacob Lake check station will be open for collecting samples on the following dates: Oct. 12-16 during the juniors-only deer hunt; Oct. 26-Nov. 5 for the general deer hunt; and Nov. 23-Dec. 3 for the late season hunt. The check station will be operational from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for the day following the end of each hunt (Oct. 16, Nov. 5, and Dec. 3) when the check station will close at 12 noon.
Department biologists will also be collecting samples during the juniors-only elk hunt in Units 1 and 2C from Oct. 12-15. In addition, biologists will be working in the field from Nov. 2-5 and Nov. 16-19 in Unit 28, seeking successful hunters to provide samples for the CWD monitoring effort in this area.
Hunters who wish to assist the monitoring effort by bringing in the head of their recently harvested deer or elk to a Game and Fish Department office for sampling are requested to do so between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Place the head in a heavy plastic garbage bag for delivery and keep it cool and out of the sun. If the weather is warm, it is best to either bring in the head within a day of harvest or keep it on ice in a cooler before delivery.
When submitting heads for sampling, please provide accurate, up-to-date hunter information (name, street address, city, state, zip code and phone number) as well as hunt information (hunt number, permit number, game management unit harvested in, county, state, and hunting license), as this information is crucial should CWD be detected in a sample. If this information is not provided, the Department will be unable to test the sample.
Test results are available online at www.azgfd.gov/cwd, by clicking the “Chronic Wasting Disease Test Results” link on the right side of the page.
Image courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department