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Officials fight spread of Chronic Wasting Disease | Environment

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Officials fight spread of Chronic Wasting Disease
Officials fight spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Last month, The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed an elk was the first case of Chronic Wasting Disease in the natural state. Since then, two deer have also tested positive for the deadly disease.

While the disease can’t be contracted to humans, it is still something Arkansans should take seriously.

For the nearly ½ million people that go deer hunting in Arkansas every year, chronic wasting disease could have a major impact on the quality and quantity of deer that will be available. That's why, wildlife officials say, they're working hard to contain the disease before hunters take the woods next fall.

"It is part of our culture and our hunting heritage to deer hunt every year in Arkansas,” said Keith Stephens with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Last month, an elk shot last hunting season near Pruitt tested positive for Chronic wasting disease. On March 9, 12 miles east of Pruitt, in Ponca, a deer that was found dead also tested positive for the disease. And on Tuesday, a third case was confirmed after a second deer was found dead at Camp Orr. All three locations are in Northern Newton County near the Buffalo River.

"We want to try to contain this and keep it in that area if we can,” added Stephens.

"Containing" Chronic Wasting Disease means that up to 300 elk and deer in that area will be killed and tested for the disease. Stephens says only deer, elk, and moose can contract CWD, but that doesn't mean they are safe to eat.

"It's a disease that makes Swiss cheese out of your brain. It can no longer function and you die. There's really nothing romantic about it at all.”

Even though some river flooding has caused many deer to look for higher ground, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says there's really no reason to believe that your neighborhood deer are infected with the disease.

Even still, if you spot a deer that seems to be acting strange, do not make contact with the animal. Animals with Chronic wasting Disease will typically foam at the mouth, lose weight rapidly, and have a hard time standing up. If you see an animal showing these symptoms, contact Arkansas Game and Fish at 800-482-9262 or cwdinfo@agfc.ar.gov.

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