Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a fatal sickness that deteriorates the brains and nervous systems of white-tailed deer. And now, it’s affecting deer hunting in Missouri.
The Missouri Department of Conservation said there have been 33 new cases of CWD in Missouri over the last year, bringing the total 75. That’s a very low percentage of the deer population in Missouri, but the disease is showing signs of growth.
Francis Skalicky, a spokesman for the MDC, says rifle hunters will be required to bring in samples of any deer that they kill on opening weekend to be tested.
If CWD spreads past its current state, Skalicky said that it could do much more than just present an inconvenience to hunters.
"If the disease gets firmly established here, since it is always fatal to deer populations, it will reduce the number of deer. That will reduce the number of deer hunting opportunities for people who like to hunt. That will reduce the number of nature viewing opportunities for just your campers and your hikers. They don't like to hunt, but they like to see deer. So, that's a big deal."
The spread could also potentially affect the economy. According to the MDC, deer hunting gives $1 billion to Missouri’s economy annually.
Although it is not required, hunters who believe their kill may be infected can take it to a MDC office at any other time of the season to get tested, even outside of opening weekend.
Signs for an affected deer include drooping head and ears, excessive salivation, tremors, thinness, weakness, or a change in normal behavior.
For more information on CWD, contact your local MDC office, or find the “Wildlife Diseases” at www.huntfish.mdc.mo.gov.