Oct. 18, 2017
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
Since chronic wasting disease was discovered in Arkansas in February 2016, biologists have collected thousands of samples from deer and elk taken by hunters, from targeted animals showing signs of the disease and from road-killed deer throughout the state. In addition to samples taken to establish the disease’s spread and prevalence, the AGFC is offering a convenient way for hunters to have their deer tested for CWD at participating taxidermists and veterinarians.
“The AGFC’s main focus is on the area of the state where we know CWD exists and determining the outer edge of its spread, but we have received calls from hunters in all parts of the state who want to know if their deer has CWD,” said Cory Gray, manager of the AGFC’s Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division. “We do have a few more options in place for that to happen this year.”
Gray and Jenn Ballard, the AGFC’s veterinarian, reached out to taxidermists to collect samples last year from hunters turning in heads for mounts.
"Most deer turned in to taxidermists are going to be older age-class bucks, which typically have the highest prevalence of CWD of any segment of the population,” Gray said. “So this was a good source for us to look for the disease throughout other portions of the state. This year we’ve worked with taxidermists so that hunters can get a CWD sample taken from any deer, young or old, buck or doe.”
Gray says the added locations of taxidermists and veterinarians throughout the state also offer more places than the Commission can man throughout deer season to make it easier for a hunter to turn in a sample.
“Participating veterinarians may charge a fee to pull a sample, but we’ve worked out a system with the taxidermists on the list to pull samples free of charge to the hunter,” said Gray. “We are still finalizing some contracts with taxidermists, so be sure to check the website for updates to the list.”
Hunters going to taxidermists or veterinarians should call ahead of time for the shop’s hours. If the location is closed, hunters should preserve the sample by placing the head with 3 to 4 inches of the neck attached in a cooler with ice. The head also may be frozen, but should be allowed to thaw before presenting it to the person taking the sample.
Gray stresses that heads and samples from deer taken in the 11-county CWD management zone must stay within the zone, so hunters interested in having their deer tested should plan ahead to find which sample site best fits their needs.
“We also will be manning 17 free CWD testing stations on the opening weekend of modern gun deer season,” Gray said. “If someone wants to wait to have their deer tested until then, they can freeze the head, then let it thaw and bring it to one of these stations.”
Gray says the AGFC-manned stations will accept any deer for testing, whether it was harvested inside or outside the CWD Management Zone.
“No matter which method you choose to have your deer sampled, you’ll receive a card with your test sample number and a web address to see your sample results once they’ve been processed,” Gray said. “Results should be available within two or three weeks of the sample being collected.”
Hunters submitting any samples that turn up positive will be notified immediately by the AGFC. Biologists will work with them to collect and dispose of any meat from the infected animal and reinstate their game tag if possible.