(via KARK) — One elk from the 52 taken so far in 2016 has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The elk, harvested in southwestern Searcy County on private land, was a 2.5-year old bull taken during the elk management assistance program quota hunt.
According to Wes Wright, elk program coordinator, all samples from the public land hunts were found to have no evidence of CWD. The AGFC is still waiting on results from all other samples taken from the eight elk harvested outside the core elk zone.
“This is only the sixth elk which tested positive in the state since the initial detection of the disease in Arkansas,” Wright said. “We’ve sampled more than 40 target elk since February that looked sick, and 52 from the 2016 hunting season, and the prevalence of CWD within the elk herd appears to be extremely low.”
The results have Wright in good spirits because the prevalence remains low in the elk herd.
“Obviously, we didn’t want it in Arkansas at all, but it was really only a matter of time,” Wright said. “But the very low prevalence of the disease in the elk herd is much better news than we anticipated going into the season.”
The hunter who harvested the CWD-positive elk has been notified of the test results.
CWD is a neurological disease that’s part of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Once in a host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into abnormal shapes that accumulate until the cell ceases to function. As the brains of infected animals degenerate, they lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate and grind their teeth.