NEWTON COUNTY, Ark. – The numbers are in for deer samples that tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease from this past hunting season.
“Newton County ranks in first. Of the 246 samples we had, 128 of them came back to Newton County. And then Carroll County, Madison County and Boone County all came back with right around 30 samples,” said A.J. Riggs, a wildlife health biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Over the past four years, 381 total samples tested positive in Newton County, 76 in Carroll and 70 in Boone.
“The disease is really slow to spread generally speaking,” Riggs said. “So I think we’re just getting a handle on where it is in the state.”
CWD is a deadly neurological disease found in deer and elk.
The first sick deer in the state was found in Newton County.
And over the years the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has been getting more samples from hunters in the state, which means it’s finding more deer with C-W-D.
In the past couples months Arkansas Game and Fish actually expanded their CWD management zone to include a couple more counties.
“We had detections on the eastern part of Searcy County that expanded the zone into Stone and Baxter,” Riggs said. “And in Scott County we had a detection just south of their northern boundary.”
The wildlife health biologist said many times when they call people and tell them their deer tested positive for CWD, people will say their deer didn’t show any signs.
“Unfortunately because the disease has a long incubation period of 16-plus months, you may not see signs of the animal actually be sick until the end of the disease when they start showing clinical signs. They can appear to be perfectly healthy,” Riggs said.
Although there’s no evidence CWD affects humans, the Centers for Disease Control recommends hunters get their deer tested after it’s killed. That means having a plan before deer season starts up again.
“They need to once they harvest their animal, package it up and hold it. And then not consume it until they get those test results back. We provide free testing statewide, from the very beginning of deer season to the very end of deer season,” Riggs said.
The Arkansas Game and Fish biologist said there will be two or three freezers per county in the CWD management zone. For more information on CWD, go to www.agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer/cwd/