ARKANSAS: CWD Testing Now Statewide for Road Kill or Deer Found Dead

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission deer program coordinator Cory Gray said wildlife officials have abandoned the 50-mile buffer zone to check for chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer and will now test statewide.

AGFC chief of wildlife management Brad Carner said last Thursday that recently received results from 49 sampled deer and elk showed 19 tested positive for CWD.

Of the about 265 deer and elk taken during the sampling period in a 125,000-acre focal area from five miles east of Pruitt to five miles west of Ponca, 28 were deer that exhibited no symptoms of the disease. Nine of those animals tested positive.

Carner said last Thursday that the AGFC was going to start concentrating on a 16-county area in a 50-mile buffer zone in the northwest quadrant of the state by testing road kill and deer found dead.

Carner said experts in other states agreed that a 50-mile buffer zone was a good start, but Gray said Tuesday that officials met Monday and decided to take that program statewide for road kill and deer found dead.

A Harrison Police report shows a caller told police he had hit a deer at Union Road and Main Street in Harrison about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, March 26, and that the AGFC was notified.

Gray said that deer should have been taken for testing, but he wasn't sure if it had been.

But it's not just in Arkansas where efforts could be stepped up.

Gray said the AGFC has been in contact with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation about results found in Arkansas, but Oklahoma officials say there are currently no positive test results.

"In 2006 more than 1,626 hunter harvested deer and elk were sampled in Oklahoma and all tested negative for chronic wasting disease," the OWDC said in a statement. "To date, some 7,088 animals have been tested statewide as part of The Wildlife Department's monitoring program and all have tested negative for CWD. The Department will continue to monitor the state's deer and elk herds through additional testing."

The Missouri Department of Conservation has also been contacted, and there have already been positive tests in that state.

The containment zone in Missouri is largely in the north central and central eastern parts of the state. No positives had been reported in the border counties along the Arkansas state line.

Jasmine Batten, MDC wildlife health specialist and CWD coordinator, said deer and elk have been tested for CWD since 2002, and different areas of the state are tested each year.

Batten said hunter harvested deer were tested in the southern part of the state in 2015, but positive tests had not been confirmed any further south than Crawford and Washington counties just southwest of St. Louis.

But, because deer don't respect state borders, Batten said Missouri and Arkansas officials have been talking and Missouri plans to enhance surveillance of the potential for CWD in the southern border counties.

The AGFC's Gray said the next batch of test results from deer and elk harvested in Newton County hadn't been returned as of Tuesday, but he hoped results would be in by the next CWD update meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, March 31, in Jasper.

But results currently in don't show clusters of positives, which Gray said would show more about the prevalence of the disease.

When results do start to show more information about the prevalence, AGFC will then begin efforts to contain spread of the disease. Those efforts could include new regulations, but no decisions had been made as of Tuesday.

Still, the disease is caused by a protein animals shed through feces, urine and saliva. Because it's a protein and not actually alive, the infectious agent can survive for years in organic matter such as soil and plants, officials have said.

"We won't be able to eradicate it," Gray said, "but we should be able to manage it."