WALDRON – Chronic wasting disease has been found in Scott County. A hunter-harvested white-tailed deer harvested north of Waldron tested positive for the disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The buck, sampled through the AGFC’s network of partnering taxidermists, was confirmed as CWD-positive by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison today.
“Preliminary tests indicated the positive case last week,” said Dr. Jenn Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian for the AGFC. “We received confirmation of those results today and, as part of our CWD protocol, we are notifying the public through press releases, our website and social media resources with the news about the presence of the disease in a new county.”
Although Scott County currently is outside the AGFC’s CWD Management Zone, Ballard does not expect any changes to deer-hunting regulations to take place for the remainder of the 2018-19 deer hunting season.
“We will evaluate the need for any expansion of the CWD Management Zone during the regular hunting regulations-setting process once the season is over,” Ballard said. “Changing the regulations mid-season would not be fair to hunters.”
Ballard says the new positive case in Scott County is indicative of how the disease can slowly spread under normal circumstances.
“We know bucks tend to carry a higher prevalence of the disease than does and we know bucks can disperse long distances, potentially moving the disease across the landscape,” Ballard said. “That is why we have partnered with taxidermists to help us collect samples as a free service to hunters.”
Hunters who wish to have their deer tested for CWD can voluntarily take the head of the deer with about 6 inches of neck still attached to one of the AGFC’s network of participating taxidermists to have a sample tested for free. They may also drop the head off at one of dozens of CWD-testing Collection Stations positioned throughout the state. Visit www.agfc.com/cwd for a list of testing locations.
The CWD management zone includes Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy, Sebastian, Van Buren, Washington and Yell counties.
CWD was first detected in Arkansas Feb. 23, 2016. Since the first detection, AGFC has sampled and tested over 18,000 deer and elk from around the state with more than 16,000 of those samples coming from hunter-harvested animals. To date, 570 deer and elk have tested positive for the disease in Arkansas.
Research indicates that CWD is caused by a misfolded protein called a prion that is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva, and can survive for years in soil and plants. CWD can have an incubation period of at least 16 months, which means infected animals may not show signs of disease immediately.
CWD prions accumulate throughout the body and affect an animal’s nervous system. The disease prions cause normal cellular proteins to misfold into abnormal shapes, which accumulate until neural cells cease to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They may separate from their herds, walk in repetitive patterns, carry their head low, salivate, urinate frequently and grind their teeth.