POPE COUNTY,Ark. (News release) — A sampling effort from Aug. 1-4, around the southernmost case of chronic wasting disease in the state has not turned up any new positive results of the fatal deer disease.
Biologists and staff collected 52 samples from deer taken during the four-day sampling period and sent them to Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison for CWD testing. All sampling took place within a few hours each morning and evening on land near the location of the single positive case of CWD in Pope County.
“We really wanted to get some good data from the area where this deer was found,” said Cory Gray, deer biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “This outlier was more than 40 miles away from where we’ve found the majority of CWD cases, so we really wanted to sample here as well.”
Gray says the AGFC will be collecting samples from hunter-harvested deer during opening weekend of modern gun season this year with a target sample size of 300 per county in the 10-county CWD management zone. However, the area where the deer in Pope County was found is surrounded by state park land and property owned by Entergy, both of which are off limits to hunting. Through special agreements with private landowners and Entergy, the AGFC was given permission for a limited sampling effort to make up for the lack of hunter-harvested deer that will come from this area.
“This effort also gives us a little more piece of mind that we aren’t seeing the higher prevalence rate that we saw in Newton County,” Gray said. “But we really won’t know the whole picture until after hunting season.”
Gray says this year’s urban bowhunt scheduled for Russellville will be another opportunity to gather samples from hunters in the area.
“We worked with the City of Russellville to develop a mechanism that allows urban deer hunters the opportunity to submit their harvest for CWD sampling,” Gray said. “We want to allow hunters as much opportunity as possible to continue hunting like they always have, but we need their help in monitoring the disease.”
Voluntary sample collection sites will be available opening weekend of this year’s modern gun deer season, Nov. 12-13, at locations within the 10-county CWD management zone. These stations are listed on www.agfc.com and Page 8 of the 2016-17 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook.
“People who voluntarily have their deer tested on these days will receive the results when we get them, which will take a couple of weeks,” Gray said. “This isn’t a food safety test, just a test to see if the deer was CWD positive.”
Monitoring for the disease will be strong outside of the CWD management zone as well. However, instead of establishing a prevalence rate, which requires random samples, biologists will be looking for any evidence of the disease. The best way to detect the disease, according to CWD experts is to take samples from animals that appear sick and from roadkills, which are 16 times more likely to have CWD than from random sampling.
“We’ve collected thousands of samples statewide from roadkills and targeted animals, but the summer heat has slowed things lately,” Gray said. “Excessive heat can cause the tissue needed for CWD sampling to deteriorate too much to get a viable result. As we get closer to fall, cooler weather will allow more time to get those samples and deer activity will pick up, causing more roadkills, in general.”
Visit www.agfc.com/cwd for more information on CWD sample locations and other important information about the disease.