Sept. 19, 2017
Keith Stephens Chief of Communications
Last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was honored for its efforts to inform the public about chronic wasting disease. During its annual meeting, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies awarded the AGFC the prestigious 2016 Ernest Thompson Seton Award.
The award goes to the agency that promotes the scientific management of wildlife resources by bringing to the public’s attention the benefits of scientific wildlife management. It also recognizes the agency that has taken a strong position in support of the integrity of its program. The award is named after Seton who was an author, wildlife artist, founder of the Woodcraft Indians and one of the founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. Seton also influenced Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting.
CWD is a transmissible, fatal, neurological disease that affects deer and elk in Arkansas. The agent for this disease is neither bacterial nor viral, and is believed to be caused by a misfolded protein “prion” that replicates and infects other normal proteins. If not contained, this neurological disease could wipe out entire populations of white-tailed deer and elk.
Arkansas’s first positive case of CWD was confirmed in February 2016 in the Buffalo River area of northcentral Arkansas. Not only was CWD discovered in free-ranging white-tailed deer, but also in Arkansas’s free-ranging elk herd. This also was the farthest the disease had been found in the Southeastern United States.
AGFC Director Jeff Crow said finding the disease was the first step in a long journey. “Chronic wasting disease may be the biggest challenge the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has faced, not only in this century, but in the last several decades since the agency began restoring the state’s deer population from next to nothing to its strong numbers today,” Crow explained. Not only did the AGFC’s deer management team step up quickly with a plan to deal with the disease, but other divisions within the agency grasped the enormous problem and contributed hours to collect specimens and inform the public about the disease and its potential impact to Arkansans,” he added.
Crow said the Commission’s employees are very deserving of the award and he was honored to work alongside them. “I simply do not own the words to adequately tell them how proud I am to be associated with such an exceptional group of dedicated and professional public servants. It is my privilege to serve alongside people who truly make a difference to benefit Arkansas’s citizens and natural resources,” he added.