The Arizona Game and Fish Department is warning people not to play good Samaritan by picking up what they believe to be orphaned deer or elk calves from the wild. In most cases, say the state’s wildlife experts, the wild animals are not truly orphaned, and removing them from the wild is a death sentence due to regulations stemming from concern over chronic wasting disease.

Because of the threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD), which has been found in three of Arizona’s neighboring states, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is implementing strict measures to prevent the possible spread of the disease should it become present in the state.

Deer fawns or elk calves that cannot be returned in short order to where they were picked up most likely will have to be destroyed.

Department officials are pleading with people to leave baby wildlife in the wild where they belong. That goes for deer, elk, and even birds.

“Don’t kidnap baby wildlife. In most instances, such seeming acts of kindness backfire. Wild animals belong in the wild. Leave them there. All of them,” says Public Information Officer Rory Aikens.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disorder that affects deer and elk, although there is no evidence that CWD affects humans. For deer and elk, there is no cure. Once an animal develops clinical signs of the disease, it is always fatal. There is no known treatment or preventive vaccine for CWD.

Research from Wisconsin has documented that prions, the causative agent for CWD, can be found in fawns as young as six months. It is not known how CWD is transmitted. For more information, go to cwd-info.org on the Internet.