AGFC finds 28 new cases of CWD in north Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK – Twenty-eight new cases of CWD have been identified from voluntary sampling stations run by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission during opening weekend of modern gun season, Nov. 12-13. The samples were collected from 25 sampling sites in the CWD Management Zone in north Arkansas.

The AGFC conducted voluntary sampling sites in 25 locations within the 10-county CWD Management Zone, and the following counties had deer test positive for CWD:

Carroll – eight deer
Marion – two deer
Newton – 14 deer
Pope – two deer
Searcy – one deer
Yell – one deer

Marion and Yell counties were the only new counties to have a CWD-positive case, and Searcy County was just added to the CWD-positive list a week ago upon confirmation of the state’s lone CWD-positive elk sample for 2016.

“The Marion County cases were right across the border from Boone County, which already had CWD-positive cases, but the Yell County one is a little disheartening,” said Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator. “It’s our southernmost case yet, and was found on the south side of the Arkansas River.”

Hunters voluntarily submitted 535 samples during the two-day period, about 10 percent of the checked harvest in the CWD Management Zone that weekend.

Biologists did not receive as many samples as they were hoping to get in the CWD Management Zone from hunters, but Gray says he hopes that means hunters still consider deer hunting priority over any disease concern.

So far, license sales and overall harvest tend to reinforce that thought.

“Many states with CWD have seen a drop in hunting license sales and deer harvest immediately following the detection of the disease, but we currently aren’t seeing a decrease,” Gray said. “Our hunting license sales are on the same trend as before CWD was detected, and the harvest has actually increased in many of the CWD-positive counties compared to the previous five years.”

Gray says the increased harvest may be a result of liberalized seasons in the CWD Management Zone to help control the spread of the disease.

“We didn’t get the number of samples in the management zone that we wanted, but I would much rather hunters be there enjoying the resource and killing those deer we need killed to keep the herd at healthy levels,” Gray said. “We will adjust our strategy to get any extra samples and review our methods for next season.”

Gray says the results also helped fill in some gaps left from roadkill surveys throughout the year, particularly in Pope, Johnson and Newton counties, which is mostly national forest with very few roads from which to collect roadkills.

Gray says an additional 411 samples taken from roadkills and deer that were reported sick throughout the state have been sent for testing, bringing the total number of statewide samples taken since March well over 3,000. Biologists will continue to sample deer and elk that are reported sick on a statewide basis, and roadkill samples also will be collected, but Gray says the effort will be diminished from the current round-the-clock response.

“Our staff has done a tremendous job in collecting samples statewide since March 25,” Gray said. “They’ve been collecting samples 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So we’re going to back down those efforts to be during business hours.”

Gray says all staff have been instructed never to pass up a roadkill without checking for a viable sampling opportunity, but responding to calls about roadkills at all hours of the night will slow down.

“We can’t thank the public enough for helping us locate roadkills when they saw them, and we still want people to report any sick deer they see to us through our radio room (800-482-9262).”