The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission voted Friday to implement new regulations intended to slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk.
The regulations set up a management zone for a ten-county region in north-central Arkansas where the feeding of deer and elk will be restricted. Hunters there will also be encouraged to kill more of the animals in order to reduce the population density and to submit samples for testing. Dead carcasses are not allowed to be transported outside the zone.
The management zone encompasses Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Newton, Searcy, Pope, Yell and Newton Counties.
Wildlife Management Division Chief Brad Carner said the agency will now focus on educating the public.
“We’ll continue to have workshops and meetings leading up to the start of hunting season and try to distribute information, whether it’s some recommended best management practices on processing deer or using feeders or whatever it is. We’re going to begin working on that component now,” he said.
More than 90 deer and elk have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Arkansas. The first animal suspected of the disease was killed in October 2015 and with positive test results found in February 2016. The disease is known to always be fatal.
The regulations were the result of six weeks of public meetings and comments. Despite concerns it could spread beyond deer and elk populations, Carner said there is currently no evidence to suggest that possibility. He said the measures approved by the AGFC are modeled after similar containment strategies developed in other states where CWD has been a problem.
“At the end of the day success is going to mean that the disease still spreads across the state, but it takes longer. It’s over several decades and not over a period of a few years,” he said.
Carner said AGFC officers will be instructed to use their discretion in enforcing the new regulations.
The regulations were approved unanimously after commissioners chose to strike provisions requiring the permits for hunters in non-commercial game enclosures. Other provisions would prohibit the use of deer scents in hunting and prevent people from rehabilitating fawns, because of their susceptibility to the disease and low survival rates.