It can be difficult to track the course of CWD, as its symptoms are often subtle. There is no test for CWD, the only way to check for the disease is to remove a part of the animal’s brain and check for lesions within a specific area of the medulla oblongata. Preventing the spread of CWD is difficult without a test and with few obvious symptoms, but there are several signs that may indicate when an animal is infected. Clinical disease is more difficult to detect and is more prolonged in elk as compared to deer, but is most often signaled by a loss of body mass caused by lack of appetite, hence the “wasting” effect that gives elk and deer an emaciated appearance. Effected animals will demonstrate strange behavior, often separating themselves from the herd and walking in circles. Ataxia, or the loss of body movements will result in head tremors and loss of coordination. Excessive urination and salivation are also common. Once an animal is infected, death is inevetable. There is no vaccine, and no treatment. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, AGFC, urges anyone who may see an animal with CWD to report it at email@example.com or call 1-800-482-9262. The disease is specific to cervids, and cannot spread to other livestock or humans. However, it is recommended that deer and elk remains be avoided and that hunters and taxidermists take common sense precautions listed on the AGFC website when handling remains.
CWD was first detected in Arkansas elk when a hunter-harvested female was shot in October of 2015, and first found in deer on March 8th of this year in the Boxley Valley. It has only been confirmed in Boone and Newton counties, and includes 90 cases of CWD in deer, and 4 in elk. The affected area remains relatively contained, though further spread is anticipated as the AGFC prepares for even more CWD cases.
Trey Reid, with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, is reassuring. He acknowledges that while the presence of CWD in Arkansas isn’t good news, it certainly does not herald the end of our robust elk and deer herds.
“chronic wasting disease is being managed in Arkansas based on the best management practices that we've learned from other states that have dealt with CWD in the past. Arkansas is the 24th state where CWD has been detected, so we've learned from the successes and setbacks of other states.” Said Reid.
“Arkansas has made great strides in deer management, we're going to do everything in our power to contain CWD and manage the state's deer herd in a way that will benefit the state's hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts."