The Arizona Game and Fish Department has concluded another sampling season for chronic wasting disease (CWD) and reports that lab tests found no presence of the wildlife disease in any of the 2,157 hunter-harvested or road-killed deer and elk sampled during Arizona’s 2007-08 hunt season.
The department has tested nearly 10,450 deer and elk samples since beginning its surveillance program in 1998. None have tested positive for the disease. Although CWD has not yet been found in Arizona, it is present in three neighboring states: Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
“We’re very encouraged by these results, but we’ll continue to remain vigilant with an aggressive testing program,” says Lisa Shender, wildlife health specialist for the department. “We’ll be sampling again during the 2008-09 hunting season.”
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 Wildlife Management Unit 12B are especially encouraged to submit heads. Because this unit borders Utah, deer from this area of the state have the greatest potential for initial detection of CWD. Additionally, because the Kaibab check station is only mandatory for Units 12AE and 12AW, it is typically more difficult to obtain samples from Unit 12B.
“We’d like to thank the hunters, meat processors and taxidermists who helped provide samples for testing this year,” says Shender. “They play a crucial role in our testing process.”
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.
CWD was first identified in captive deer in Colorado in 1967 and has since spread to both captive and wild cervids in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. It is a naturally occurring prion disease belonging to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other TSEs are bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also called “mad cow disease”) in domestic cattle, and scrapie in domestic sheep and goats.
The department has had rules in place since 2002 banning the importation of cervids designated as restricted live wildlife under Commission Rule R12-4-406(G)(9)(b), to protect against the introduction of CWD to free-ranging or captive wildlife.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department will continue to work in close coordination with other state, tribal and federal agencies to monitor for CWD.
For more information on CWD, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Web site at www.azgfd.gov/cwd; the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance Web site at www.cwd-info.org; or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov (use the search feature for chronic wasting disease).