AGFC discusses Chronic Wasting Disease
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission held one of a series of meeting last night in Monticello. The statewide meetings we to address proposed regulation change to the Arkansas deer season since Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered in several Northwest Arkansas counties in recent months. The AGFC has found a 23% prevalence rate in those areas for the disease which is extreme high for a state that has just discovered the infection.
According to AGFC Deer biologist, Cory Gray the disease only affects members of the cervid family which in Arkansas only include whitetail deer and elk. CWD is a neurological disease found in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family. It is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep but has not been shown to be transmissible to livestock or humans. The disease belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or prion diseases. It is believed to be always fatal in cervids. The prions that transmit the disease have been shown to be extremely resistant to any common means of sterilization and can exist in the environment indefinitely.
Gray said it is not the goal of the commission to eradicate the disease but to contain it to the CWD zone and stop its spread.
The Monticello meeting was attended by over 80 concerned citizens and hunters. After the presentation of the proposed regulation changes the staff took public comments from the audience. As expected the comments focused on the proposal to ban feeding of wildlife outside of a narrow window during the hunting season that would allow hunters to hunt over bait.
Gray said that the commission arrived at this regulation change to try to limit the spread of the disease by limiting the concentration of deer around the feeding sites, including mineral (salt) licks. Gray also emphasized that they did not want the hunter harvest of deer to decline in the state because a higher concentration of deer could also lead to more transmission of the disease. Gray said that allowing hunters to use bait to harvest during the majority of the deer season would hopefully keep hunters hunting and the harvest at normal levels.
The concern of the hunters who made comments was that they would not be able to harvest as many deer without the option of using bait during other parts of the year. This was especially a concern with hunters on leased timber company land where the landscape has been converted to pine plantations and many of the natural attractions for deer have been removed.
The regulation setting process for the AGFC is that the proposed changes listed below will be in a 30 day public comment period and the commission will vote on the regulations, with some possible modifications, at their June meeting. More information on the disease can be found on the AGFC website and CWD-info.org. The public is encouraged to comment on the proposed regulations by going to AGFC.com and clicking on the CWD Regulations Proposed link “Click here to see the proposals and comment”.
• Allow deer and elk hunting with the use of bait October 1- December 31, statewide on private land.
• Prohibit feeding of wildlife statewide year round with some exceptions for bird feeders etc.
• Prohibit the use of scents and lures that contain natural cervid urine or other cervid biofluids. To take effect January 1, 2017.
• Prohibit rehabilitation of deer statewide.
• Establish CWD Management Zone. The zone would include counties with known positives and counties in close proximity to known positives.
• Establish private land CWD management program the program would be similar to Deer Management Assistance Program the bonus tags would be tied to land.
• Prohibit transport of certain portions of cervid carcasses from CWD management zone. The guidelines would follow those previously established (deboned meat, cleaned skull plates, hides, taxidermy products, teeth, etc.).
• Establish a core elk management zone and a statewide elk management zone. The Core Elk Zone would include: Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties. The statewide zone would be all other counties and it would allow harvest of elk during deer seasons.
• Require elk to be submitted for CWD testing.
• Increase private land antlerless elk quota from 24 to 40 in the Core Elk Zone
• Allow harvested button bucks to be checked as antlerless deer in deer zones and WMAs with special CWD management regulations. Button buck would not count towards the hunter’s two buck bag limit in those zones.
• Liberalize season structure in deer zones 1 and 2 by increasing the bag limit from four to five deer, increasing the antlerless bag to three with firearms, and removing the three-point rule
• Liberalize deer season on Bearcat Hollow, Buffalo National River, Gene Rush Ozark National Forest, Piney Creeks, Sweden Creek Natural Area, and White Rock WMAs.
• Create a non-commercial hunting enclosure permit for high-fenced facilities, and require those facilities to submit CWD samples for all deer that die within the respective facility, allow annual inspections, and maintain accurate deer harvest records. There would also be a moratorium on the issuance of new permits after July 1, 2017.