The Arizona Game and Fish Department reports no detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in any of the 1,624 testable samples from hunter-harvested or road-killed deer and elk during Arizona’s 2009-2010 hunting season.

The department has tested approximately 14,500 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.

“With the extra surveillance in areas of concern, we are glad to report that there was no detection of CWD in our samples,” said Anne Justice-Allen, DVM, wildlife health specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Although the overall number of samples decreased this season, we actually increased the number of samples in the areas bordering Utah and New Mexico.”

Each year, hunters who are successful in the Game Management Units bordering Utah and New Mexico, particularly Units 1,12B, 27, and 28, are encouraged to submit heads for sampling because these units are closest to CWD-positive areas. Arizona deer and elk from these areas have the greatest potential to have contact with an infected animal from these neighboring states.

While it is only mandatory to bring animals harvested from Units 12A East and 12A West to the Kaibab check station, hunters may also bring animals harvested from other units to the check station for CWD sampling during the regular hours of operation.

“Arizona’s hunters, meat processors, and taxidermists continue to play a crucial role in our surveillance program,” said Clint Luedtke, Game and Fish wildlife biologist with the CWD program. “We cannot thank them enough for assisting the department in this effort.”

CWD is a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to cervids, which include deer, elk, and moose. 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 walking in circles or repetitive patterns.

No evidence has been found to indicate that CWD will cause disease in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control 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 17 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 (BSE) in domestic cattle and Scrapie in sheep and goats.

The department has had rules in place since 2002, which designate cervids as restricted wildlife and ban the importation of cervids in order to protect against the introduction of CWD to free-ranging or captive wildlife in the state (for details see R12-4-406 and R-4-430).

The Arizona Game and Fish Department will continue to work in close coordination with other state and federal agencies to monitor for CWD.

For more information on CWD, visit these Web site resources:

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