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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

AGFC taking steps to prevent disease from affecting deer herd

Friday, June 21, 2002

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is taking steps to stop chronic wasting disease from entering the state.The AGFC recently passed a law making it illegal to import, ship, transport or carry into the state by any means any live member of the cervid family, including but not limited to white-tailed deer and elk."If this disease entered the state, deer management as we know it would change dramatically," said Donny Harris, AGFC's chief of wildlife management, "Our goal then would be to eliminate infected herds," he added.Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a nervous system disease that has been observed in deer and elk in Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana and Oklahoma. Very little is known about the disease. It causes damage to portions of the brain of the animal and there is no cure for the always-fatal disease.A task force will be assembled to sample deer, set up a public relations campaign to inform the public and collect information from other states."CWD is the worst thing we have seen on the wildlife front," said Harris.Although the disease doesn't seem to affect humans or cows, an appearance in Arkansas would cost the state millions of dollars that would be focused on CWD research, surveillance and management.According to Harris, the effort to eliminate the disease in Wisconsin costs the state around $20,000 a day and the costs are growing."There are also associated costs not figured in," Harris explained. "Deer hunting contributes millions of dollars to the state and if you eliminate herds then people don't hunt. You lose the money hunters would spend on gas and grocery besides costs directly associated with hunting," he added.Animals affected with the disease reveal progressive loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, depression and eventually death. Although the exact method of transmission is unknown, it is known that CWD is transmitted from animal to animal."Live deer have been imported into Arkansas in growing numbers in recent years by individuals wanting to privately breed deer," said Mark Clark, AGFC's assistant chief of wildlife management.It is very difficult to stop deer importation across the state line, but Clark hopes education and stiffer penalties will get people to obey the law."These people don't want CWD getting into their herds. It could ruin their businesses. No one would buy from them again," he said.Currently, there is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating the meat of infected animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted a study of CWD and human risk and has stated: "The risk of infection with the CWD agent among hunters is extremely small, if it exists at all."For more information on chronic wasting disease go to www.dnr.state.co.us/wildlife or www.dnr.state.wi.us. Information can also be found at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.

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