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AZGFD: Arizona Deer Still Free of Chronic Wasting Disease

Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A disease fatal to deer and elk has struck herds in some western states. But Chronic Wasting Disease hasn’t yet arrived in Arizona, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The department tested about a thousand tissue samples from deer and elk harvested in the fall hunting season. The tests showed no trace of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Anne Justice-Allen is the department’s wildlife veterinarian. She says the disease affects the animal’s brain and leads to abnormal behavior and death. “We consider this a serious threat to our deer and elk populations, and we’re being very diligent about testing for this disease,” she says.   

Justice-Allen says diseased animals could move into Arizona from New Mexico and Utah, although barriers like mountains and rivers have so far prevented this.

She’s also concerned hunters could introduce the disease from another state. That’s why they’re required to process deer and elk meat before bringing it into Arizona.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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