STRONG – After a hunter-harvested white-tailed deer taken in Union County tested positive for chronic wasting disease in December, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has confirmed that no additional sampled deer had been detected with the disease.
The infected deer was harvested in Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge during the permit-based annual modern gun deer hunt. A CWD sample was collected at the check station for that hunt. That sample tested positive for CWD and was confirmed by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison. This was the first case of CWD in Union County.
As a result, staff from the AGFC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services conducted a targeted sampling of 40 deer from Felsenthal and three deer from Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita Wildlife Management Area. CWD was not detected in any of the samples.
Previously, 307 CWD samples were submitted in Union County before the first positive case, with 107 of those being submitted since July 2021.
AGFC State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Jenn Ballard says the agency will continue to be vigilant on not only a regional area, but statewide as well. “This is a great example of how difficult it is to find the disease in an area with low prevalence,” Ballard said.
According to Cory Gray, Chief of the AGFC’s Research Division, hunters are the backbone of the AGFC’s efforts to contain CWD in Arkansas. “Without this hunter having his deer sampled, we may not have found the disease in Union County. We couldn’t be nearly as vigilant without hunters helping in our efforts,” Gray said.
The AGFC has placed more CWD drop-off containers near the refuge for voluntary testing and are talking with local deer clubs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get help in gathering additional samples while deer season is still open.
Felsenthal NWR Manager Michael Stroeh said he was relieved to hear that no other deer were found to have CWD, but “we are going to continue working very closely with the AGFC and not get complacent in this effort. We ask that hunters continue to enjoy the refuge, and make plans to hunt Felsenthal for the upcoming deer season.”
AGFC Director Austin Booth says the agency will follow the AGFC’s CWD Management and Response Plan, and evaluate the need for any changes concerning deer hunting during the hunting regulations-setting process once the season is over. “More samples means more chances to find any new concentrations of the disease and gives our staff a better picture of the landscape so they can make better-informed decisions moving forward.”
Hunters who wish to have their deer tested for CWD can voluntarily take the head of the deer, with 6 inches of neck still attached, to one of the AGFC’s network of participating taxidermists to have a sample tested for free. They also may drop off the head at one of dozens of CWD-testing collection stations positioned throughout the state. A list of CWD-testing facilities is available at www.agfc.com/cwd. Local landowners near Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge also may contact the AGFC to participate in surveillance efforts in the area. For more information, call 501-412-5434.
Map: A deer harvested during the November hunt on Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge is the only case of CWD confirmed in Union County to date.