Arkansas officials begin 5-year CWD study

Arkansas officials have launched a five-year study on CWD in the northern part of the state.Photo courtesy Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

A team of state and federal officials, as well as university experts, has begun researching chronic wasting disease in Arkansas, and they will be capturing and monitoring deer for the next five years. The study will focus around Newton and Searcy counties, where the outbreak originated nearly five years ago.

Missouri officials have worried that the spread of CWD in northern Arkansas could move into Missouri counties along the border.

The goal of the study is to obtain a better understanding of how deer afflicted with CWD move across the landscape, survive and reproduce, Jenn Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said in a statement. The team will capture deer, test them for CWD, put collars on them and track their movements. When deer die, necropsies will determine the cause of death.

“By understanding the way CWD changes survival and reproduction, we can calculate the effect the disease is having and will have on our population dynamics,” Ballard said. “We’ll be able to use this information to inform future disease management efforts.”

People in the study area may see helicopters and traps set during the next few years, as well as deer with collars and ear tags. A phone number on the tags will allow hunters who harvest one of the deer to call to find out when the animal was sedated. Deer that have been injected with drugs should not be consumed if they were harvested within 14 days of sedation. If a hunter harvests an animal within that time, a replacement deer tag will be issued.

The AGFC is working with several partners on the five-year project, including the University of Georgia-Athens, the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Colorado State University, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the first case of CWD was confirmed in Arkansas in early 2016, 1,060 deer and 30 elk have tested positive for the disease, including six deer in Benton County, 122 deer in Carroll County, and 165 deer in Boone County — all of which border Southwest Missouri.

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