by Max Brantley
Commissioners voted unanimously today during special meeting to approve a Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone made up of Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties.
CWD has been found in five of these counties since first being discovered in Arkansas in late February. The AGFC has circulated proposals to slow the spread of the disease for the last month through 11 public meetings throughout the state, a live call-in show on AETN and an electronic survey at agfc.com.
Feeding wildlife will be prohibited within the 10-county CWD management zone. However, baiting for the purpose of hunting will be allowed September 1 through December 31, when more than 95 percent of Arkansas’s deer harvest takes place.
“We opened the time frame up slightly to include September because we have three urban hunts within the CWD management zone which open in September,” said Brad Carner, AGFC chief of wildlife management. “Baiting is a useful tool to increase the harvest in these areas where we need to reduce deer density.”
Food plots are not included in the feeding prohibition, nor are backyard bird-feeding stations, hand-feeding of wildlife or normal agricultural or livestock practices.
The AGFC will issue extra deer tags to landowners near known CWD-positive cases to help reduce deer density.
“Landowners do not have to harvest additional deer, but samples from all deer harvested through these CWD management tags will be required.” Carner said.
Transportation of deer and elk harvested within the CWD management zone also will be restricted. Only deboned meat, cleaned skulls, antlers, teeth, hides and taxidermy products may be removed from the CWD management zone.
“Hunters will be allowed to transport the whole deer or elk within the 10-county zone to take them home or to a processor, but will not be allowed to leave the zone with anything but the approved portions of the animal,” Carner said.
Hunting limits will be increased within deer zones where CWD has been found. An additional doe will be allowed during modern gun season and the three-point rule will be removed in those zones (deer zones 1 and 2) to help increase harvest. Button bucks in those zones will be counted as antlerless deer to promote harvest.
Scents and lures using natural deer and elk urine will be prohibited statewide.
The rehabilitation of deer will be prohibited statewide. Recent research has indicated that at least 75 percent of rehabilitated fawns die within 100 days of release. With only 100 or so fawns rehabilitated per year, such low survival was not enough to warrant the risk of spreading CWD throughout the state.
“With CWD being present in yearlings we’ve sampled, it’s possible that a fawn infected with CWD may go to a rehabber and be reintroduced to a new area and spread the disease,” Carner said. “It’s also possible that the fawn may contaminate the facility and any deer rehabbed there later could get the disease.”
Hunters outside of Boone, Carroll, Madison, Newton and Searcy counties may now harvest any elk they see during regular deer hunting season with a limit of one, either sex. This is to contain the elk to the current range and prevent them from spreading CWD to any new areas. All hunters who kill elk will be required to submit a sample for CWD testing as well.
A proposal to create a non-commercial hunting enclosure permit for high-fence deer facilities was tabled.