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Hunters help safeguard Arizona's deer & each from chronic wasting disease

Thanks to Posted Nov 13, 2018, 6:02 pm Stephanie MorseCronkite News GREER – On a chilly fall morning in Eastern…

Thanks to

GREER – On a chilly fall morning in Eastern Arizona, families taking part in a youth hunting camp awoke before dawn to hunt each.

Gage Martinez, 14, was one of the last to return with

“I was so excited, my hand was shaking,” Martinez said.

Meanwhile, three Arizona Game & Fish Department biologists gathered around the each’s head. Een van hen gebruikte een kleine knife om te snijden in de dierlijke cheek om de lymph nodes te verwijderen, die zal worden verzonden naar een laboratorium in Colorado om te worden getest voor chronische wastingziekte, of CWD.

CWD is een neurodegeneratieve ziekte gevonden in deer , each and elderly populations. It’s prevalent in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, which neighbor Arizona. Infected animals become unresponsive, emaciated and eventually die.

Last year, CWD was found in Montana. The year before, it was discovered in Arkansas. The disease has now been detected in 24 states, where it has reduced herds by 20 to 40 percent.

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

“In Colorado and other states, we do not know how to eradicate it,” said Travis Duncan, a spokesman with Colorado’s Park and Wildlife Department. “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 is popping up in other states.

If the disease comes to Arizona, state workers and hunters hope to discover it soon.

“We try very hard to manage our herds to keep them at a maximum level, and all it would take is a serious case of CWD to just throw everything out of balance,” said Rusty Rogers, an avid hunter and committee member for the White Mountain chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

There are no ways to determine whether a deer or each has CWD until the late stages of the disease, when physical symptoms appear.

“You may have seen signage or posters with sick-looking ones that lead us to believe anyone can visually identify it,” Duncan said. “But in reality, CWD looks perfectly healthy and you would 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 testing the deer that people harvest is the best option we have, “said Duncan.

Why Hunting Season is Key

” It’s a big challenge, “said Anne Justice-Allen, a wildlife veterinarian with Arizona Game & Fish. “It may be an impossible challenge, because states that we did not think were going to get it now have it.”

Hunting season is the only time of the year when Arizona Game & Fish can regularly test for CWD.

“We need to make sure that wildlife populations are healthy because they play an important role in keeping the landscape and the environment sustained,” Justice-Allen said.

Last year, the department tested more than 1

,200 samples statewide, and officials hope to test even more this year.

“Our goal is to test enough animals on an annual basis to try and make sure we can detect it if It’s present in just 1 percent of the population, “Justice-Allen said.

Arizona Game & Fish opened a new testing center in Springerville to help with this goal, and Justice-Allen and her team are going to more hunting camps This season to collect samples and spread awareness.

“We’re talking to hunters and let them know what we’re doing out here and why it’s important that we are doing the disease-monitoring project and taking samples,” said David Drever, a biology

“To be clear, it has never been found to cross the species barrier from either one or two to humans, “Drever said,” but it is still a concern that people have had in their minds of ‘Do I want to eat an animal that has a disease?’ “

Not all hunters, however, process the meat themselves or take the De tijd om vrijwillig hun dier voor te testen, zo de afdeling betaalt professionele taxidermists en vleesverwerkers om in de gaps te vullen. Justice-Allen said about half of the samples.

Arizona quick to act

Beyond testing, Arizona has stricter laws than other states related to captive deer management and how deer meat is dealt with . Experts say these measures are another key part of the state’s success in keeping CWD out of the state.

Arizona has banned traditional deer farms where private owners raise their hunt or sell byproducts because of concerns about the potential role these farms could have

Amy Kravitz, a biologist at the farm farm, said the farm submits for disease testing. anytime one dies. The farm also needs special permission from Game & Fish to import deer, she said, and can only bring in animals from CWD-free states.

The state also bans people from bringing whole deer carcasses or central nervous tissue – the brain and spinal cord, which contains the highest concentrations of the protein that causes CWD – into Arizona.

In addition, Arizona is one of only a few states to ban hunters from using urine or grain feed as bait to attract game due to

“Some of these things occur in other areas of the country,” Justice-Allen said. “Here we are careful and just do not allow it.” [19659031] An uphill battle

Despite such efforts, chronic wasting disease has continued to spread since 1981, when it was first detected in Colorado’s wild dear populations.

“It’s something that we’re always thinking about and concerned about, “Justice-Allen said. [1 9659007] Arizona Game & Fish has increased its efforts in recent years to collect more samples. The disease, however, is often spread by natural deer movement, which can not be controlled. Wild deer can travel 50 to 100 miles, so it’s possible CWD infected from a neighboring state can cross into Arizona.

“In some states like Montana, where it was just detected last year,” Justice-Allen said, “it’s probably been there for a year or two before they found it. “

In other states after, the department would have to remove infected deer and any other deer that could have come in contact with the infected animal and its waste. CWD was detected, officials released bonus tags to hunters for trying to keep the deer population down, and instituted mandatory CWD testing.

A long road ahead

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

The department hires extra interns in the fall to help operate the Springerville testing station and another in Kaibab, pick up samples from taxidermists and meat processors, and monitor hu nting camps.

“It’s a lot easier for us to keep diseases out than it’s to try and control them once they’re here,” Justice-Allen said.

Despite Arizona’s success so far, experts do not

“This is something that we have to manage over the course of the next 10 to 15 years and maybe even beyond, who knows,” Duncan said. “It’s going to be a decades- long fight, not just year-to-year. “

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