BY REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
The deer archery season opened in most zones last weekend. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be in my tree stand for opening day this year due to farm responsibilities that just couldn’t wait. The last several deer seasons have been good ones and I’m excited to see what will unfold this year.
It hasn’t been terribly long ago that deer were scarce throughout most of Arkansas. In the1940s, our state saw a resurgence of the deer population and hunting seasons have been improving ever since. Today, Arkansas’ deer population is estimated to be close to one million. Tens of thousands of Arkansas families take time each year to hunt and enjoy the great outdoors together.
Our deer herd could once again be in danger without cooperation from all of us who hunt and those who process venison. This week, I want to update you on a new regulation recently enacted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). AGFC adopted regulations to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk that produces small lesions in brains of infected animals. Infected animals may not show any symptoms of the disease. In some stages of the disease, however, infected animals begin to lose control of bodily functions and display abnormal behavior such as staggering, standing with very poor posture and losing fear of humans. If you see an extremely skinny deer or one that is obviously sick, do not kill or try to disturb the animal but rather contact AGFC at 1-800-482-9262.
CWD can significantly reduce the growth and size of wild deer and elk populations in areas where the prevalence is high, and is of increasing concern for wildlife managers across North America.
The disease has not been detected in Arkansas, but AGFC has recently chosen to make it a violation to import any cervid carcass originating outside the boundaries of Arkansas. Cervids include deer, elk, moose and caribou. There are a few exceptions to the rule. You can find them on the AGFC website at www.agfc.com.
As we begin another season in the woods and deer camps please remember to focus on hunter safety, respect for each other and to care for the beautiful ecosystem God has given us to enjoy.
Have a blessed week!