The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission announced today that a deer suffering from chronic wasting disease, or CWD, was taken by a hunter east of Oil Trough, in eastern Independence County. As of Dec. 3, 748 deer and 22 elk have tested positive for the disease.
The prion-caused neurological disease, which is fatal and affects deer and elk, was first observed in Colorado in 1967. It was first found in Arkansas in 2016, and is now in 26 states. Infected animals become emaciated, have problems swallowing, lack muscle coordination, salivate and urinate excessively and show excessive thirst. The Times wrote in 2017 about Game and Fish’s actions to address the disease.
Game and Fish created a CWD Management Zone that year that allows a higher bag limit and a lifting of antler restrictions to reduce the number of infected animals. With the exception of antlers, cleaned skulls, meat with all bones removed, cleaned teeth, hides and finished taxidermy products, it is illegal to transport deer outside the management zone, which was expanded this year to 19 counties in the northwestern quarter of the state: Benton, Carroll, Boone, Marion, Baxter, Stone, Searcy, Newton, Madison, Washington, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Pope, Van Buren, Yell, Logan, Sebastian and Scott.
Most of the confirmed cases have come from Newton County, but only Crawford, Logan, Yell, Van Buren and Stone have produced no reports. Independence County lies outside the management zone. The closest county to Independence where the disease has been found is Searcy, which is separated from Independence by Stone County. That indicates the disease is spreading through the cervid population, but Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens said in a news release that the agency “does not expect to make any changes to deer-hunting regulations for the remainder of the 2019-20 deer hunting season.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that deer or elk be tested before eating the meat, though there is no record yet of transmission to humans, pets or livestock. Feeding animals infected meat is not recommended.