Saturday , October 23 2021

Hunters help protect Arizona's deer & deer from chronic wasting disease


Thanks to

Stephanie Morse

Cronkite News

Greer – On a cool morning in eastern Arizona, families who took part in a youth hunting camp woke up before dawn to hunt deer.

Gage & amp; Martinez, 14, was one of the last to return with reindeer, but by midmorning he was skinned and hanging on a tree with his hind legs.

"I was so excited, my hand was shaking," Martinez said.

Meanwhile, three Arizona Department biologists & fish game were gathered around the head of the reindeer. One of them used a small knife to cut the cheek of the animal to remove the lymph nodes, which would be sent to a laboratory in Colorado to be tested for chronic wasting disease, or CWD.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in deer, deer and deer populations. It is common in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, which is neighboring Arizona. Infected animals become unresponsive, exposed, and eventually dead.

Last year, CWD is in Montana. A year earlier, he had been discovered in Arkansas. The disease has been identified in 24 countries, where it has reduced to 20 to 40 percent.

Researchers are trying to learn more about the disease and find a vaccine, but there is currently no cure.

"In Colorado and other countries, we do not know how to eliminate it," said Travis Duncan, a spokesman with the Colorado Department of the Wildlife Park. "All we can do is manage it."

Hunters are on the front line of Arizona's efforts to keep the disease at bay now that the disease has sprung up in other countries.

If the disease comes from Arizona, state employees and hunters hope to find out quickly.

"We try very hard to manage our flocks to keep them at maximum level, and all it takes is one serious case of CWD just throwing everything out of balance," said Rusty Rogers, an avid hunter and member of the White Mountain Park Foundation's Rock Foundation Mountains.

There is no way to determine if deer or reindeer have CWD until late stages of the disease when physical symptoms appear.

"Maybe you saw placards or posters with a deer looking at a patient who led us to believe that someone could recognize it visually," Duncan said. "But in reality, most deer with CWD seems completely healthy and you will never be able to tell."

There is no blood test for CWD, so the animal must be dead to collect and test a lymph node sample.

"That's part of the reason why managing it through hunting and checking the deer that harvest people is the best option we have," said Duncan.

Why hunting season is the key

"It's a big challenge," said Anne G. Stein-Allen, a wildlife veterinarian with Arizona game and fish. "It could be an impossible challenge because countries that did not think they were going to get it now have it."

Hunting season is the only time of the year that Arizona Game & Fish can regularly check for CWD. The goal is to check as many animals as possible during this period.

"We need to make sure that wildlife populations are healthy because they really play an important role in maintaining the landscape and the environment," said Justice Allen.

Last year, the department tested more than 1,200 samples across the country, officials hope to check even more this year.

"Our goal is to check enough animals on an annual basis to try to make sure we can identify it if it exists even in only 1 percent of the population," said Justice Allen.

Arizona Game & Fish Open a new testing center in Springerville to help with this goal, and justice for Ellen and her team are going more than season hunting camps to collect samples and distribute the ads.

"We talk to hunters and let them know what we're doing here and why it's important that we do the project to monitor diseases and take samples," said David Draper, a specialist biologist at Game & Fish.

Knowing their game safe to eat also provides hunters with peace of mind.

"To be clear, it has never been found to cross the species barrier from deer or reindeer to humans," said Drever, "but it is still feared that people were in the minds of" Do I want to eat an animal that has a disease? "

Not all hunters, however, process the meat itself or take the time to voluntarily provide their animal for inspection, so the department pays professional taxidermy meat processors to fill the gaps. Justice Allen said about half of the game samples & fish probes are collected from these sources.

Arizona fast act

Beyond testing, Arizona has tougher rules than other countries related to deer deer management and how venison is administered. Experts say these measures are another key part of the country's success in keeping the CWD out of the country.

Arizona has banned a traditional deer farm where private owners grow deer hunting or selling byproducts because of concerns about the potential role these farms could distribute in CWD.

But zoos and animal places, such as Grand Canyon and Tzvi Farm near Williams, are allowed to keep deer deer.

Amy Kravitz, a geologist at the Deer Farm, said the farm offered deer for disease testing every time she died. The farm also needs special permission of the game & fish to import deer, she said, and can only bring animals from CWD to no countries.

The state also forbids people from bringing carcasses or central nervous tissue – the brain and spinal cord, which contains the highest concentration of CWD protein to Arizona.

In addition, Arizona is one of the few states that only prohibit hunters using urine or deer feed grain as the bait to attract the game, due to concerns these methods can cause disease to spread faster.

"Some of these things are happening in other parts of the country," Judge Allen said. "Here we are careful and just do not allow it."

Battle up the mountain

Despite such efforts, chronic wasting disease has continued to spread since 1981, when it was first identified in wild deer populations in Colorado.

"It's something we always think about and worry about," Judge Allen said.

Arizona Game & Fish has increased its efforts in recent years to gather more examples. The disease, however, is often spread by natural motion deer, which can not be controlled. Wild deer can travel 50-100 miles, so it is possible CWD infected with deer from a neighboring country can cross into Arizona.

"In some states like Montana, where it was detected only last year," said Judge Allen, "it must have been there a year or two before they found it."

The department will have to remove infected deer and any other deer that could have come in contact with the infected animal and its waste.

In other countries after the CWD was detected, officials were issued bonus tags to hunters on trying to keep the deer population down, and instituted compulsory CWD tests.

A long way ahead

The Arizona Game & Fish Department spends about $ 70,000 on CWD testing annually, which is around 27 percent of its wildlife budget and health.

The department leases more interns in the fall to help run the Springville test station and another one in Kiev, collect stuffed animals and meat labs and supervise hunting camps.

"It's a lot easier for us to keep disease than trying to control it once they're here," Judge Allen said.

Despite Arizona's success so far, experts do not expect the threat to ease anytime soon.

"It's something we need to manage for 10 to 15 years and maybe even beyond, who knows," Duncan said. "This is going to be a struggle of decades, not just from year to year."

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