LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will be ramping up efforts at disease-monitoring surveys, beginning Sept. 17, and are asking motorists to help by reporting any road-killed deer they see along Arkansas’s roads and highways.
Road-killed deer offer biologists a chance to monitor for chronic wasting disease throughout the state without the need to kill deer to obtain samples.
Chris Middaugh, research biologist for the AGFC, says roadkill samples enable biologists to detect where CWD may have spread.
“Road-killed deer have shown to have a higher probability of testing positive for CWD than random sampling because deer suffering from the disease may be less wary of danger or slower to react to the car,” Middaugh said. “Because of this higher probability, roadkill samples are very valuable in detecting the disease’s range.”
According to AJ Riggs, wildlife health biologist for the AGFC, the increased effort during spring and fall correlates with increases in deer-vehicle collisions during these times.
“During the first year of sampling, which was year-round, we saw two peak times for roadkill samples,” Riggs said. “As fawns begin to be fully weaned and the annual rut cycle beginning in bucks. Deer activity increases during these times, which leads to more collisions.”
In addition to the increase in sampling opportunities, fall temperatures aid in preserving viable samples until staff can collect them.
“During summer, samples can degrade in less than a day because of the heat,” Riggs said. “Cooler weather definitely gives us a better percentage of viable samples from the effort.”
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects members of the deer/elk family (cervids). It is similar to “mad cow disease” in cattle. Infected animals will not show signs of disease for a long period of time, but late in the disease process they will be thin and may demonstrate weakness, abnormal behavior, excessive thirst, or drooling. Animals generally die soon after the onset of these signs. To date, 355 white-tailed deer and 14 elk have tested positive for CWD.
Report any roadkill to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262 as soon as possible. Please call this number as well if you see any deer exhibiting signs of CWD. All testing options for hunters are available at www.agfc.com/cwd.