BREAKING: Eighteen Deer, 1 Elk Confirmed with CWD

Eighteen more deer and another elk have been confirmed to have chronic wasting disease in a shocking development for a state that until recently never had a positive test for the fatal disease.

Elk and white-tailed deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Arkansas, shocking officials there with the number being discovered after years of not finding any in regular testing.

Elk and white-tailed deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Arkansas, shocking officials there with the number being discovered after years of not finding any in regular testing. (Photo: AGFC)

Veteran outdoor writer Bryan Hendricks, a DDH contributor and outdoor editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, broke the story late Wednesday night. It’s a stunning turn in a short amount of time for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials. Only weeks ago, the first elk was found in the state’s mountainous northern region followed by a deer that tested positive.

Arkansas, like other states, has for years prohibited hunters from transporting certain parts of deer or elk from states with confirmed CWD cases in wild or penned populations. After finding the first elk and deer, AGFC officials went into its CWD protocol plan.

Hendricks revealed in his story that officials have been testing deer and elk either found as roadkill or shot by licensed AGFC officers in the CWD target area. Officials also are stunned at the number of deer they have found testing positive. From his story:

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed Wednesday that 18 more deer and one more elk in north Arkansas tested positive for chronic wasting disease, bringing the total number to 22.

The latest batch of samples contained 49 deer and elk, which means that the prevalence rate for chronic wasting disease is much higher than Game and Fish biologists anticipated, said Brad Carner, chief of the commission’s wildlife management division. Four of the animals that tested positive for CWD came from outside the sampling area along the Buffalo River, including one that was collected in Boone County.

“It’s pretty shocking,” Carner said. “It is definitely way more prevalent and more widespread than we ever expected to see.”

Here is the press release from the AGFC sent by the agency on March 22, prior to the revelation of the larger number of positive tests. More information will come soon.

A second white-tailed deer has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The disease is fatal to deer and elk.

The second positive CWD test came from a deer north of Mt. Sherman at Camp Orr. The AGFC took tissue samples from the 4½-year-old female deer, which was found dead on March 2. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, confirmed the test late Monday. Earlier this month, another deer was found dead in Ponca. That deer also tested positive for CWD.

The two deer are in addition to an elk killed during a hunt near Pruitt, which was confirmed to have the disease Feb. 23. All three locations are in northern Newton County near the Buffalo River.

The 2½-year-old female elk was killed by a hunter Oct. 6 on the Buffalo National River near Pruitt during elk hunting season. It was the first animal in Arkansas confirmed to have CWD. The disease was confirmed on Feb. 23. The elk was tested by the same lab that confirmed CWD in the deer from Ponca.

To determine the prevalence and distribution of the disease among deer, the AGFC has begun taking samples within a capsule-shaped area ranging from 5 miles west of Ponca to 5 miles east of Pruitt, and 5 miles across.

The dead deer found near Mt. Sherman is in the AGFC’s focal testing area, according to AGFC Chief of Wildlife Management Brad Carner. “This positive sample falls squarely in the middle of our sampling area so we will not have to make any adjustments at this time. We will try to intensify our sampling in the immediate vicinity of this detection,” he added.

“We need to sample 300 deer to determine the prevalence and the spatial distribution of CWD in the population with 95 percent confidence,” said Dick Baxter, an assistant chief in the Wildlife Management Division.

Enough free-ranging deer have to be tested before there’s a strong statistical chance of detecting CWD in 1 percent of the herd. This is a common method to estimate CWD prevalence in deer populations. As results are analyzed, wildlife biologists will adjust the strategy.

“The test area will expand as positive (CWD) tests warrant,” said Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator.

As of March 22, AGFC personnel have sampled 225 deer and 6 elk. Samples are being sent to the lab weekly. Results of the tests usually take 7 to 10 days.

Sampled deer and elk are processed at a base camp staffed by AGFC and National Park Service personnel. Meat from deer that don’t test positive for CWD will be given to landowners where the deer were harvested or Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Everything that is not packaged for consumption will be incinerated.


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