LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – For the first time ever, chronic wasting disease has been detected among deer in the southern part of the state, in Union County.  

Hunters don’t need to panic, but what they can do is help the Arkansas Game and Fish commission track the disease so it can be better managed.

Hidden within Arkansas’ natural beauty is a cruel disease affecting our elk and deer.

“They do lose weight and ultimately, lose awareness of their surroundings,” said Jennifer Ballard, State Wildlife Veterinarian with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is caused by an abnormal protein that’s very hard for the body to break down. As it accumulates, it damages brain cells.

“And that is what results in the animal’s clinical signs and ultimately, its death,” Ballard said.

CWD was first detected in Arkansas in 2016 in the Ozark region. But just recently, a detection in Union County is cause for concern.

“Which appears to be unrelated as far as we can tell, a new occurrence of the disease in our state,” Ballard said.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says while the disease is transmitted from animal to animal, it’s never been documented to infect humans, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Public health authorities feel like the highest risk for transmission to a human, if it could occur, would occur from consumption,” Ballard said.

Ballard said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission can’t manage CWD without the help of Arkansas hunters.

“Keep hunting, have your deer tested, keep any unwanted parts local to the site of harvest,” she said.

Testing deer for CWD helps the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission understand where the disease is and measures the effectiveness of their management strategy.

There’s also another incentive for hunters.

“This year, they can also have their name put into a drawing where they can win a voucher for a lifetime hunting license,” Ballard said.

It’s a long-term issue that can be managed, to prevent the spread of CWD and to keep Arkansas’ natural beauty and wonder in place for a very long time.

Arkansas Game and Fish says they’ll test any deer for any hunter statewide through the end of deer season.

They have more than 100 drop-off locations around the state, at least one in every county.

For more information on CWD testing sites, go to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission website.