‘We need your help;’ Wildlife officials battling chronic wasting disease

Discussion in 'Whitetail Deer Disease' started by Pinefarm2015, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. Pinefarm2015

    Pinefarm2015 Retired

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    Some in MDNR seem to believe that a CWD carcass brought in and dumped was the source of our CWD. Now it appears the Arkansas biologists believe the same is possible there. Perhaps focusing on deer coming in from other states should be a bigger priority?

    The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has issued a plea to landowners in the general area where a cow elk was killed and became the first known positive diagnosis for chronic wasting disease in Arkansas.

    “We need your help,” AGFC real estate officer Marcus Kilburn told a crowd of more than 150 at a public meeting Thursday night in Harrison.

    The 2 1/2-year-old elk was killed in the Pruitt area during the elk hunt in early October. Officials say tests confirmed the diagnosis in mid-February. Why the long delay?

    There is no USDA-approved method for testing live animals because the lymph nodes and obex — the base of the brain where it connects to the spinal column — must be removed from the animal for testing.

    AGFC elk program coordinator Wesley Wright said the agency has been doing random sampling of elk and white-tailed deer for years. The hunter who killed the cow elk was asked if the animal could be tested as part of that routine and he agreed.

    Samples are tested at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, but Wright said they don’t like to test single samples unless it’s from an animal suspected of carrying the disease. So, numerous samples are saved and sent in for testing at the same time, in this case after the first of the year.

    The sample was confirmed as CWD positive on Feb. 17, but it also had to be confirmed through a USDA-approved lab. National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, was that lab and confirmed the diagnosis on Feb. 23.

    The AGFC had developed a response plan to CWD in 2006, especially after many states surrounding Arkansas had cases. After the official diagnosis in Arkansas, the AGFC put the plan into action and began calling public meetings to inform the public.

    AGFC chief wildlife manager Brad Carner gave the crowd Thursday night some history of how the disease began. The first known cases of CWD were in captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967.

    The disease, which is of the same family as mad cow disease in bovine and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, is transmittable and is caused by “misfolded” proteins called prions. It deteriorates the brain, but only in cervids (hoofed animals in the cervidae family such as deer, elk and moose).

    Biologists believe it is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva. Prions that carry CWD have an incubation period of at least 16 months, and can survive for years in organic matter such as soil and plants.

    Officials said Thursday night that the prions, as malformed proteins, aren’t technically alive and can be present indefinitely. Because it is always fatal and there is no cure, there’s only one course of action.

    “You have to manage it,” Carner said. “You have to deal with it.”

    Carner said it’s believed that CWD made its way to Arkansas via an infected carcass brought in from another state and likely dumped illegally in the Buffalo National River area, or through a live cervid brought in.

    “It’s not our fault you brought elk in and I think that’s where this is coming from,” a man in the crowd said.

    Dr. Don White Jr., wildlife ecologist with the University of Arkansas’ Agricultural Experiment Station, agreed that 112 elk were brought into the state in the mid-1980s.

    But White said it seemed unlikely to him that CWD would have come from that original herd or there would have been evidence of it long before now.

    Carner explained the response plan called for sampling of a combination of 300 elk and white-tailed deer within a five mile radius of the location where the sick elk was harvested.

    That will require killing the animals to get tissue to test and Carner said the AGFC is asking for property owners in the five-mile zone to help collect those animals for the agency.

    AGFC will collect the animal, debone the meat and store it in freezers until lab tests are returned, hopefully within a week or two of submitting samples.

    If the sample tests negative, the meat will be made available back to the property owner or will be donated to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. If the sample is positive, the meat will be destroyed in an incinerator.

    Mass killing of deer and elk is not the answer to CWD, according to Carner. He said Wisconsin officials did try to completely emaciate deer — 10s of thousands — in a wide area after a positive diagnosis in 2002.

    All that did, Carner said, was see the disease balloon in the adult population with new results showing 40 percent of buck deer testing positive for CWD.

    So, AGFC wants to try to contain the spread of the disease. First will be the sampling phase, which could begin next week, and results will be evaluated to determine if changes in wildlife regulations are necessary.

    Another man in the crowd said other states haven’t been successful, so it appears the AGFC will spend a lot of money to wipe out deer and elk population.

    Carner said there are no new funds for the prevention plan, rather that current funding is being diverted from other projects.

    He also said it’s not clear whether actions in other states had been completely unsuccessful as the spread of the disease might have been controlled to a certain degree.

    AGFC deer program coordinator Cory Gray said there are concerns about effectiveness of the plan, but to just ignore it and let it possibly spread further wasn’t an options either.

    Carner agreed, saying that testing will go on for years. He admitted it will have an impact on the area, but there weren’t other clear options.

    “Now that it’s here,” Carner said, “we have to manage it the best we know how.”

    Officials asked for any landowners to consider taking samples or allowing the AGFC to collect samples on their property.

    They also asked that anyone witnessing sick deer or elk to contact the AGFC by email at [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-482-9262.