When the news came out of south Arkansas that a deer in south Arkansas had tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) earlier this week, attentive deer hunters on the northern border of Louisiana knew something was coming here, too. This afternoon it did. A 2.5 year-old female white-tailed deer in Union County, Arkansas, tested positive for CWD just 7.5 miles north of the Louisiana-Arkansas border. CWD is a serious degenerative disease in deer and is fatal.
In response to this detection of CWD near the Louisiana border, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) voted to implement a declaration of emergency to ban feeding and baiting in nearby Morehouse and Union parishes beginning Dec. 6. To see the full declaration of emergency, go to https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/resources/category/commission-action-items. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission director Austin Booth said in a news release that even though this discovery was made, “there will be no changes to deer hunting regulations for the remainder of the 2021-22 deer hunting season” in Arkansas.
No matter what your opinion is of this, if you hunt, make sure you are familiar with the regulations so you do not violate the orders and have to pay a fine, or worse yet, help spread the disease.
Union County shares a boundary with Union Parish and also bumps boundaries with Claiborne Parish, however Claiborne was not affected by the emergency declaration. No explanation was given in the LDWF news release. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has also implemented its CWD Response Plan and will increase ongoing CWD surveillance in Morehouse and Union parishes due to their proximity to the CWD detection.
Hunters harvesting deer in Union or Morehouse parishes are asked to either contact the LDWF Monroe Field Office at 318-343-4044 or nearest LDWF Field Office and take the heads of their harvested deer with six inches of neck still attached to allow LDWF biologists to pull tissue samples for CWD testing.
CWD has never been shown to be contagious to humans, although the Centers for Disease Control recommends that humans not consume known CWD-positive animals, and that people hunting in CWD-endemic areas should have their deer tested for CWD prior to consumption.
Social media will certainly light up over this issue, both because of the emergency act and for concern over the possibility of CWD reaching the deer herds in our back yard. Frankly, there is always no problem with no problem with erring on the side of caution on this, even though there is no solid evidence that this action will have any positive impact, either. One thing is for sure. The next few days, deer and bears in these areas are going to get fed like never before. I expect deer corn dealers to sell out of product to hunters that want to continue to put out feed. And I’m not sure what the impact on hunters or deer herds will be on neighboring parishes. Hopefully this becomes a non-issue in our area, but we haven’t heard the last of it. The economic impact on sales of feeds and supplements will hit small businesses, deer processors, and taxidermists and will also impact local sales taxes in parishes like these that sell thousands of dollars in these products and services.
CWD is a neurodegenerative disease of white-tailed deer and other animals of the Cervidae family. It is currently present in 26 states and three Canadian provinces.
LDWF has been sampling for CWD since 2002. To date, more than 12,000 samples have been tested and no CWD has been detected in Louisiana.
Hunters harvesting deer in other parishes of the state and want to have their deer tested for CWD should contact their local LDWF field office. For more information on CWD, visit https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/cwd.