Arizona Deer and Elk Hunters Can Assist in Monitoring for Wildlife Disease

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The Arizona Game and Fish Department is requesting deer and elk hunters’ continued vigilance in monitoring for chronic wasting disease (CWD) by allowing biological samples of the animals’ lymph nodes to be collected for testing.

CWD has not yet been found in Arizona through regular annual testing since 1998. However, it is present in the neighboring states of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. CWD is fatal to deer and elk; however, there is no evidence that it poses a risk to humans.

“As in past years, the participation of hunters, meat processors, and taxidermists is essential for the department’s CWD surveillance program,” said Clint Luedtke, wildlife disease biologist. “Collection of samples from elk and deer hunters in Game Management Unit 12B (which borders Utah), as well as Units 1 and 27 (which border New Mexico), is crucial in assuring CWD is not in these potential corridors near neighboring states that have detected the disease.”

For Kaibab and Arizona Strip hunters, the Jacob Lake check station will be open for collecting samples on Oct. 6-11 during the juniors-only deer hunt; on Oct. 20-31 for the general deer hunt; and on Nov. 17-28 for the late season hunt. The check station will be operational from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the following exception that the station will close early at noon on Oct. 11, 31 and Nov. 28.

Department biologists will also be collecting samples during the juniors-only elk hunt in Units 1 and 2C from Oct. 7-13. In addition, biologists will be working in the field from Oct. 27-31 in Unit 28, seeking successful hunters to provide samples for the CWD monitoring effort in this area.

Arizona hunters hunting out-of-state

To help prevent CWD from entering the state, Game and Fish asks that all deer and elk hunters hunting outside of Arizona take the necessary precautions before bringing any harvested animals back into the state. Furthermore, hunters should contact the wildlife agency in the state they are hunting, as several states have restrictions on carcass transportation.

Here are some important things out-of-state deer and elk hunters need to know before coming back to Arizona with their deer or elk harvest:

  • Do not cut into the spinal cord or remove the head.
  • Do not quarter (or other method) the carcass with any of the spinal column or head attached.
  • Do not bring the brain, intact skull, or spinal cord back into Arizona. 

Successful out-of-state deer and elk hunters need to bone out the meat and package it (either commercially or privately). It is okay to bring back animal hides, as well as skull plates that have been cleaned of all tissue and washed in bleach. Heads from a taxidermist, sawed-off antlers, and ivory teeth are also OK to bring into Arizona.

Other ways to participate

All hunters are encouraged to assist the monitoring effort by bringing in the head of their recently harvested deer or elk to any Game and Fish Department office 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 a positive CWD sample occur. If this information is not provided, the department will be unable to test the sample.

Test results are now available online at www.azgfd.gov/cwd, by clicking the “Chronic Wasting Disease Test Results” link on the right side of the page.

CWD basics

Here are some guidelines for hunters when out in the field:

  • Don’t harvest any animal that appears to be sick or behaves oddly. Call the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 1-800-352-0700 if you see an animal that is very thin, has a rough coat, drooping ears and is unafraid of humans. 
  • When field-dressing game, wear rubber gloves and minimize the use of a bone saw to cut through the brain or spinal cord (backbone). Bone out the meat. Minimize contact with and do not consume brain or spinal cord tissues, eyes, spleen, or lymph nodes. 
  • Always wash hands thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.

The non-hunting public can also help prevent the potential spread of CWD. If you come across any deer fawn or elk calf in the wild, it should be left alone. Don’t assume it has been abandoned by the parent; in all likelihood, it hasn’t. Being a “good Samaritan” and bringing these wild animals into captivity poses a risk to the state’s wildlife resources.

CWD is a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to cervids, which include deer, elk and moose. Clinical symptoms 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.

The department also has had rules in place since 2002 restricting the movement of captive deer and elk into or within the state, and subjecting those animals to marking and reporting requirements.

For more information about chronic wasting disease, visit www.azgfd.gov/cwd or www.cwd-info.org.

Comments

GooseHunter Jr's picture

A good plan indeed to seek

A good plan indeed to seek the help of the hunters.  Seeing a sick animals may help officers in finding the sick animals quicker which in turn they may be able to nip it in the butt before it spreads too bad.  We learned the hard way here in Colorado!