The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold public meetings in Waldron, Mountain Home and Mountain View in the next few weeks to speak about the need for an expansion of the current Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone for deer and elk. Recent test results from CWD-positive deer along the outer edge of the zone boundary have caused the AGFC to consider expanding the current CWD Management Zone to include Baxter, Scott and Stone counties.
Biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission identified 238 new positive cases of chronic wasting disease in white-tailed deer and three elk during the 2018-19 deer hunting season. Among these were positive cases on the northern edge of Scott County and the eastern edge of Searcy County. To ensure compliance with the AGFC Code of Regulations, any county where a wild or captive cervid tests positive for CWD and any county within a 10-mile buffer of a positive CWD sample will be included in CWD management zone regulations.
“As we continue to learn about CWD in Arkansas and determine the outer edge of the disease, we have to adjust our management zone’s boundaries in an effort to help contain the disease and slow its spread,” said Cory Gray, chief of the AGFC’s Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division.
Gray says biologists and other staff at the AGFC want to offer hunters and other conservation-minded individuals the opportunity to learn more about the disease and what steps the AGFC is taking to slow its spread throughout the state.
Inclusion within the CWD Management Zone will mean new regulations concerning hunting on public and private land within these counties, movement of harvested deer, and feeding wildlife, which can abnormally concentrate animals into close quarters and increase the likelihood of disease transmission.
The following wildlife management areas will be affected by new regulations concerning CWD: Cedar Creek WMA, Muddy Creek WMA, Norfork Lake WMA and Sylamore WMA. Within these WMAs, button bucks will now count toward a hunter’s antlerless bag limit and antler size restrictions such as the three-point rule will be removed. These liberalizations are meant to increase the harvest of young bucks, which are the most likely to disperse and possibly carry the disease further.
“The harvest of younger bucks is much different than the quality herd management we try to accomplish with the three-point rule, and we know it’s a change many hunters may not understand,” Gray said. “But once CWD has been identified in an area we need to change our focus to strategies that first address disease management.”
Private land hunters in these counties also will see the lifting of antler restrictions and the change from button bucks being listed as bucks to antlerless. Deer harvest limits also will be liberalized on private land to help lower concentrations of deer and slow the spread of the disease.
Baxter, Scott and Stone counties will be included in Tier 2 of the CWD Management Zone’s carcass movement regulations as well. Parts of deer and elk harvested on private and public ground from these counties may not be transported outside of the CWD Management Zone except for the following low-risk items:
- Antlers and cleaned skulls
- Meat with all bones removed
- Cleaned teeth
- Finished taxidermy products
The last notable change to wildlife regulations for these counties is the restriction of feeding wildlife except when used for hunting from Sept.1-Dec. 31. Outside of this window, feeding wildlife will no longer be allowed, with some exceptions (see www.agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer/cwd/cwd-regulations).
“Supplemental feeding and baiting of wildlife concentrates animals in close quarters, which increases the frequency of direct contact between animals and increases the chances of disease transmission,” Gray said.
Meetings are scheduled for the following times and locations:
March 28 at 6 p.m. — Scott County
Waldron High School Auditorium
1560 W 6th Street
Waldron, AR 72958
April 2 at 6 p.m. — Baxter County
Arkansas State University, Mountain Home Campus
The Sheid – Trout Center
1600 South College Street
Mountain Home, AR 72653
April 4 at 6 p.m. — Stone County
Ozark Folk Center, Small Auditorium
1032 Park Avenue
Mountain View, AR 72560