The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed Tuesday that a second white-tailed deer in Newton County has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
Chronic wasting disease is a degenerative condition caused by pathogenic proteins that destroys the central nervous systems of deer and elk. It is not curable or preventable, and it is always fatal.
The second positive CWD test in March came from a deer that was found dead near the Buffalo River north of Mt. Sherman at Camp Orr. Biologists sent tissue samples from the 4½-year-old female deer to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison. The positive result was confirmed late Monday.
The first deer to test positive for chronic wasting disease was found dead in Ponca earlier this month.
Also, an elk killed near Pruitt in October was confirmed to have the disease on Feb. 23. All three locations are in northern Newton County near the Buffalo River.
Cory Gray, deer program supervisor for the Game and Fish Commission, said the second deer was in the center of the focal area where Game and Fish Commission personnel are attempting to kill 300 deer to determine the prevalence and spatial distribution of the disease. The focal area or testing range is a capsule-shaped area ranging from 5 miles west of Ponca to 5 miles east of Pruitt, and 5 miles deep.
"When the Pruitt elk tested positive, we really started gathering all sick or poor-looking animals within this range," Gray said. "This one was one of those target animals. It was real poor, in bad shape."
Because the deer was found within the focal area, the Game and Fish Commission will not expand the focal area at this time, Gray said.
"It connects the dots," Gray said. "We've got the Pruitt elk on the east and the Ponca deer on the west, and now we've got the Mt. Sherman deer right in the middle. It forms a link between those two 'positives.' "
Commission personnel and private landowners in the past seven days have killed 225 deer and six elk for sampling. It is also collecting any dead deer or elk, as well as any that appears sick or is in poor condition.
Commission personnel also found a deer dead in a creek near Erbie last week and is having it sampled, Gray said.
"That one at Erbie bothers me," Gray said, "but again, that is in our capsule. Another dot on the map. Another link in the chain."
Gray said that chronic wasting disease saddens him personally and professionally, as the state's deer manager. He said the state built its herd from the 1950s through the 1990s before shifting to a quality management model in 1998 that emphasized growing older deer. The past five or six years have been devoted to total herd management, he said, but the emergence of chronic wasting disease puts a portion of the state under a containment model.
"We don't want this to get out," Gray said. "The last thing we want is for this disease to be transported to another part of the state. Whatever the prevalence is, we want that to flat line or decrease."
The commission is labeling meat taken from deer killed for sampling and storing it in freezers, Gray said. Meat from animals that are confirmed not to have the disease will be distributed to food pantries or given to landowners participating in the sampling effort.
"We've come through deer season, and now we're hitting those deer again, and that just rubs against my grain," Gray said. "As a manager, I hate to see a deer herd that's got any kind of disease. I've spent my whole career trying to help deer, and now we've got a disease that's hindering that."
Sports on 03/23/2016