A cow elk that was legally killed by a hunter on October 6, 2015, in the Buffalo National River corridor near Pruitt in Newton County has been positively diagnosed with the chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).
Age of the elk was approximately two and a half years, according to the AGFC’s Wildlife Management Division Chief, Brad Carner. CWD is a contagious disease caused by mutant proteins, known as prions, and devastates the central nervous system. CWD is only found in cervids such as elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer and moose.
No treatment has been found for CWD and can be transmitted via direct contact, saliva, feces and urine. The prions indefinitely remain in the environment and no evidence of any human having this disease has been found. Transportation of live or dead cervids from the areas, which have been positively tested for CWD, has been prohibited by the AGFC. The cow elk was positively diagnosed for CWD by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the results were subsequently confirmed by the US Department of Agriculture lab located in Ames, Iowa.
An immuno-histo chemistry method was used by both the labs to examine the sample. The sample will be further studied by the AGFC for finding any genetic connection with the wild herd in the Buffalo River corridor. Carner said that this elk might have contracted CWD from an infected carcass that might have been killed in another stated and illegally thrown in Arkansas.
A chronic wasting disease response plan was approved during an emergency meeting. The plan involves marking of a CWD Core Zone, covering the area within the radius of five miles from the location of the infected elk. The AGFC will commence a $500,000-killing operation of approximately 40 elk and 250-300 deer from March 7, 2016. The killings will be done for further CWD sampling.