The Arizona Game and Fish Department has concluded another sampling season for chronic wasting disease (CWD). The disease was not detected in any of the 1,277 deer and elk tested.
“We are very appreciative of the hunters, taxidermists, and meat processors who provided us with samples this season,” said Carrington Knox, wildlife disease biologist. “Collection of samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk is crucial to our efforts to monitor for CWD.”
CWD is a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to cervids, including deer, elk and moose. Due to the long incubation period, animals may not have any visible signs of the disease in the early stages of infection. In the later stages, changes in behavior and appearance occur. Symptoms may include progressive weight loss, tremors, lack of coordination, excessive salivation and urination, listlessness, abnormal head posture, and drooping ears.
It is a naturally occurring prion disease belonging to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs are bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in domestic cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans. No evidence has been found to indicate that CWD affects humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
CWD was first identified in captive deer in Colorado in 1967 and has since been detected in both captive and wild cervids in 22 states and two Canadian provinces. Currently, it is found in free-ranging cervids in 18 states and two Canadian provinces. Arizona Game and Fish began testing for CWD in 1998 and has to date tested over 17,000 samples. The continued vigilance of hunters is essential for the department’s effective surveillance of CWD in deer and elk.
Testing will resume this fall and, as in past hunting seasons, Game and Fish will be asking for hunters’ assistance in submitting deer or elk heads for free CWD testing. Heads can be brought to any Game and Fish Department office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hunters who are successful in Game Management Units that border Utah or New Mexico are especially encouraged to submit heads. Deer from these areas of the state have the greatest potential for initial detection of CWD.
For more information on CWD, visit www.azgfd.gov/cwd. Information is also available from the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance at www.cwd-info.org, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.