What Hunter should know about
Chronic Wasting Disease

What is chronic wasting disease?
Chronic wasting disease - CWD – is a brain and nervous system disease that is fatal to deer and elk. It belongs to a family of disease known as prion diseases. Other prion diseases are mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. Signs of CWD in deer and elk include low weight, stumbling gait, drooping ears, rough hair, visible salivation, excessive drinking and loss of fear of humans.

 How is it spread?  Is it dangerous to humans?
Scientists believe the disease may be spread both by animal-to-animal contact and by contact with soil or other infected surfaces.  It’s thought that the most common mode of transmission is through contact with saliva and feces.

There is no evidence that CWD affects humans according to both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Public health officials do recommend, however, that human exposure to CDW-affected deer and elk be avoided as research continues.

 Is CWD in Arizona?
No, but the disease has been discovered in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and other states in the West and Midwest as well as Canadian provinces. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is concerned that CWD might be introduced through transport of infected deer or elk and is restricting the importation and movement of all live members of the deer/elk family (cervidae) into and within our state.

 What is Arizona Game and Fish doing about CWD?

The department has been conducting surveillance using hunter-harvested deer and elk since 1998. More than 1,000 animals have been tested and no evidence of CWD has been found.

 Training personnel to recognize signs of CWD
The department has trained all staff members to recognize animals with clinical signs of CWD.

 Restricting movement of live deer and elk
There is evidence that movement of live deer and elk can spread CWD. To minimize this risk, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has passed new rules that restrict the transport of live deer and elk into or within the state. The rules also require identification marking of captive deer and elk, notification to the department when non-native deer species are being held, and CWD testing of all deer and elk that die in captivity.

 When you hunt…

  • Do not harvest any animal that appears to be sick, very thin or that behaves oddly.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Taxidermied heads, sawed-off antlers and ivory teeth or OK to bring home.

Call the Arizona Game and Fish Department if you see an animal with signs of sickness that you think could be CWD. Call (800) 352-0700.

Learn more about CWD in Arizona on the Internet at

This information has been provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.