Deer and elk hunters: Your assistance is needed again this season to continue the monitoring efforts in Arizona for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a wildlife disease that is fatal to deer and elk. Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans.

Although CWD has not yet been found in Arizona through testing since 1998, it is present in three neighboring states: Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

“To remain vigilant, we will increase our sampling efforts in the Game Management Units (GMUs) closest to these bordering states,” says Clint Luedtke, department research specialist on CWD. “Assistance from elk and deer hunters in GMU 12B, which borders Utah, as well as GMUs 1 and 27, which border New Mexico, are crucial in assuring CWD is not in Arizona in these potential corridors. However, samples from all regions of the state are still needed.”

A check station at Jacob Lake on the Kaibab Plateau will be operational from Oct. 31-Nov. 9, Nov. 14-17 and Nov. 21-30. The department will conduct sampling on the weekends of Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, Nov. 8-10, and Nov. 14-17. Additional sampling will be available throughout the week. A check station will be in place (location yet to be determined) in Unit 27 on Nov. 7-10.

Hunters can 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.

To better assist the surveillance efforts, people will be asked to fill out a form with their drop-off. Please include the following information: county, game management unit in which the animal was harvested, hunt and permit number, and a contact address and phone number. If this information is not provided, the department will be unable to test the head.

Test results will be sent by postcard within six to eight weeks. There is no charge for the testing and notification.

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.

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.

  • If you hunt in another state, don’t bring back the brain, intact skull or spinal column.

  • It’s OK to bring back hides and skull plates that have been cleaned of all tissue and washed in bleach. Taxidermied heads, sawed-off antlers and ivory teeth are also OK to bring home.

  • If you intend to hunt out of state, contact the wildlife agency in the area you intend to hunt. Several states have regulations on carcass movement.

For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s program on CWD, visit www.azgfd.gov/cwd.