April 11, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
FORT SMITH – More than 250 concerned hunters filled the seats at two meetings held in northwest Arkansas last week focused on the most recent information and possible regulations changes concerning chronic wasting disease in The Natural State. The meetings, held in Fort Smith and Springdale, offered people a chance to hear and speak firsthand with biologists tracking the disease in Arkansas and attempting to slow its spread.
“The forum gave us an opportunity to speak directly to concerns hunters had and get feedback,” Jennifer Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said. “People may be very nervous about CWD and what it means for our deer herd and for our hunters, so we’re trying to let people know everything we can about this disease and how our research is progressing.”
Prominent questions involved what to do with deer while waiting for CWD results to be returned and what to do to decontaminate any tools or processing equipment that may have handled CWD-infected animals.
“We are working to speed up the testing process as much as possible for hunters,” Ballard said. “And we are working with the Arkansas Department of Health to distribute as much information as possible to hunters and processors before the next deer season on best practices for handling wildlife and the latest information on the disease.”
In addition to the public in attendance, thousands of people have viewed the meeting via Facebook Live. Comments submitted through that channel also were answered by a panel of experts as the meeting took place.
Key messages at the meeting centered on the recent suggestion from biologists to the Commission to add more counties to the CWD Management Zone, and to divide the zone based on the amount of positive cases found within that county. Boone, Carroll, Madison and Newton counties would encompass Tier One, from which no cervid (deer or elk) carcass other than deboned meat, hide, antlers, teeth, cleaned skulls and finished taxidermy products could be removed. Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Searcy, Marion, Sebastian, Yell, Washington and Van Buren counties would become the second tier of the CWD Management Zone, from which the same products could not leave unless going to a Tier One county.
“Some counties have had only one or two positives, or have not had a positive, but are within 10 miles of one,” said Cory Gray, chief of the AGFC’s Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division. “We want to prevent deer carcasses from the hotter counties spreading the disease more quickly to those outer reaches of the zone.”
Anyone interested in reading these suggested changes and making a comment are encouraged to take the AGFC’s public comment survey.
Visit www.arkansascwd.com for the latest information on chronic wasting disease in Arkansas.