June 20, 2018
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
LITTLE ROCK – Jenn Ballard, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s veterinarian, has introduced a new program to report sick or dead animals and fish that she hopes will help the agency stay on top of health problems affecting wildlife.
If someone encounters a sick or dead animal or fish -- anything other than a deer – the AGFC asks that it be reported via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those reports will be reviewed by the AGFC’s fish and wildlife health professionals and, if possible, investigated in person. If more information is needed by the investigators, the person submitting the report may be contacted.
Dr. Ballard said adding an email submission system to the AGFC’s new Fish and Wildlife Health Program has been “on my mind” since she started with the agency 18 months ago.
“It’s kind of filling a gap,” Dr. Ballard said. “If people find injured wildlife, they can still go to a licensed rehabilitator. For deer road kills, our CWD line (1-800-482-9262) is still available and is where to go for that.
“But for sick animals or dead animals that we need to investigate because of the mortality, this email system allows people to report things, attach photos, details, and a location. That’s the main thing. We may not be able to respond to every submission personally, but by having it centralized, we will be able to look for patterns and determine if they are more regional or statewide issues.”
When submissions are made, an automated response is generated that reminds people to never pick up or handle sick, injured or dead wildlife unless asked to by AGFC personnel and if aware of how to do so safely. Also, if rabies is suspected, the submitter is asked to contact the state Department of Health, the state agency that handles rabies cases.
With an injured animal that may only require rehabilitation, people can access a list of licensed rehabilitators on the agency’s website at www.agfc.com/rehab. It is unlawful for anyone to rehab wildlife in Arkansas without a state or federal rehabilitation permit. Also, deer, elk and bears may not be rehabbed due to disease transmission and safety risks.
Dr. Ballard is being assisted in the program by A.J. Riggs, recently promoted to the role of AGFC health biologist, based in Russellville; and by Kelly Winningham, a fish pathologist at the Andrew Hulsey Fish Hatchery in Hot Springs, who will handle fish issues.
“We will read all the emails submitted and keep an eye out for issues that could have population-level impacts in the state,” Dr. Ballard said. “The key for the public is being safe around those situations and passing along the information.”
Dr. Ballard said that in the past, many calls about sick of dead wildlife have gone to AGFC regional offices or to the main headquarters through telephone calls, the agency’s Facebook page, the Ask AGFC email and other means. “We don’t have a way to centralize or track that information.” Dr. Ballard said. “We appreciate the public helping us keep an eye out for these issues and to be safe with these animals and not necessarily pick them up.”