According to a recent announcement made by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the state is dealing with its first incidence of the chronic wasting disease found in an Arkansas elk.
A 2 and a half year old elk killed during an October hunting on the Buffalo National River, near Pruitt was brought in for testing and the results showed that it was indeed infected with the disease.
The first monitoring and control plans regarding this disease started in 2006, when the first cases of infection started surfacing.
In light of this discovery, officials are now testing samples taken from deer and elk located within a 5-mile radius of where the infected animal was discovered, although there is currently no reliable CWD testing method for a living animal.
Authorities have announced that a CWD management zone will be created and there will be public meetings where questions will be addressed.
According to Mike Knoedl, director of the Arkansas Game & Fish Association, their state is not the first one to deal with this disease. There are 23 more states where cases like this have been discovered and the officials from Arkansas are trying to learn from all of them how to properly manage this situation.
Although CWD cannot be transmitted to humans or livestock, health professionals recommend staying away from meat deriving from animals that are at risk. The disease affects deer, moose and elk populations.
According to Sue Weinstein, who is a public health veterinarian working at the Arkansas Department of Health, the findings suggest that this type of disease cannot be passed on to humans.
Specialists are still trying to figure out how the infection reached northern Arkansas. What is clear, however, is that the elk herd started with 112 animals, which were relocated from Colorado and Nebraska during the period of 1981-1985.
On the other hand, wildlife ecologist Don White believes that there are very little chances for the disease to have come from those 112 elk and that CWD probably arrived in Arkansas a lot sooner than that.
The Game & Fish Commission announced that 204 Arkansas elk have been tested for this disease since 1997 and 7,186 deer since 1998, however this is the first animal found infected so far.
Cory Gray is AGFC’s deer project leader and he believes that around 20-30% of the deer population from the area presumed infected were already killed during hunting season and that the samplings will probably kill all the deer and elk populations from deer management Zone 2, which is where CWD was discovered.
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