Deer hunters need to be aware of devastating CWD.
Most Arkansas deer hunters have heard of those initials — CWD. And it can be scary.
The menace is chronic wasting disease, often shortened to CWD.
The alarms have come from other states. Arkansas wildlife managers are acutely aware of the threat.
It has not been found in Arkansas, and hopefully the ban against bringing in deer and related animals from other areas will help to keep Arkansas clean of CWD. Should it hit here, though, drastic measures would follow as they have in several other states.
Regulations of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission prohibit bringing into the state live cervids, which are members of the deer family including elk, moose and caribou along with white-tailed deer and exotic deer species like fallow deer, sika deer and red deer. Carcasses from areas with CWD can’t be brought into Arkansas either.
But processed meat can be brought into Arkansas. So can cleaned antlers, skull plates, teeth, hides and finished taxidermy mounts.
CWD is a brain disease of the type called transmissible spongiform encephalitis. Mad cow disease is in this same group but not directly connected to CWD. There is no known link between CWD and humans.
The disease appears to be transmitted among deer through saliva, feces and possibly other bodily secretions.
A deer with CWD may be hard to detect. Some may show no symptoms. Others may stagger, lose control of bodily functions, including drooling, and may stand with lowered heads. They may appear to be in poor condition and may be near water and drink excessively. Not being afraid of humans is another CWD symptom.
Arkansas hunters who kill a deer that is emaciated or obviously sick should leave it at the site, mark the area and phone the Game and Fish Commission at 1-800-482-9262 as soon as possible. This number is in operation every day around the clock.
Although CWD has not been connected to humans, no one should eat meat from affected animals. Health officials and wildlife biologists recommend that people should avoid eating meat from any animal that appears sick.
When field dressing deer, hunters should wear protective gloves and should make minimal use of bone saws near the brain and in cutting through spinal cords. Wash hands thoroughly as soon as possible after field dressing deer.
CWD has been found in wild deer in some areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Saskatchewan. It has also been found in commercial game farms in Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Kansas, Wisconsin, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
CWD is apparently always fatal to deer. Scientists say the only way to detect it is through laboratory examination of brain tissue. AGFC personnel regularly collect deer for laboratory tests for CWD cases, and none have been found in the state.
In the 14 years of elk hunting in Arkansas, nearly all elk taken by hunters have been tested for CWD. No evidence of the disease has been found.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.