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Science and the Environment

MDC Hosts Meetings this Month Focused on Chronic Wasting Disease

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Larry Smith
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Flickr

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first found in Missouri in 2012 in the northwest part of the state.  The disease affects cervids (deer and elk) and is always fatal.  There is no vaccine or cure.

To date, CWD has been confirmed in 11 counties:  Adair, Cedar, Cole, Franklin, Jefferson, Linn, Macon, Perry, Polk, St. Clair and Ste. Genevieve. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation will hold six meetings across the state this month to educate the public about CWD and to get comment on possible regulation changes to help stop its spread.

"We're discussing some regulations related to carcass movements and dispoosal to address the possible threat of the disease spreading out of areas through infected deer carcasses being moved," said Jasmine Batten, wildlife disease coordinator with MDC.

CWD is spread from deer to deer through direct contact and through contact with soil, food, and water that have been contaminated through feces, urine, saliva or carcasses of infected deer, according to Missouri Department of Conservation.

Hunters and landowners are crucial to fight against CWD in Missouri, said Batten.  "They're our partners in this endeavor."

She said it's important for the long term outcome that hunters stay engaged in the effort to stop CWD's spread.  "Hunters are important to on the ground management of the disease by harvesting additional animals where the disease occurs," she said.  "They're also critical to our surveillance efforts."

Batten said about 90 percent of tissue samples tested for CWD come from hunters. 

MDC is addressing CWD in a number of ways.  Since the disease's discovery, the department has implemented several regulation changes, preventative measures designed to slow or minimize the disease's spread such as establishing a CWD management zone.

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Credit Michele Skalicky
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An MDC biologist takes a tissue sample from a harvested deer to check for CWD

"So, any county that's within 25 miles of a CWD detection is put into the management zone," Batten said.  Regulation changes in those counties include those regarding setting out minerals to attract deer.  "Unnatural feeding  and using minerals for deer concentrates deer and allows the disease to spread more aggressively."

MDC has also removed the antler point restriction in those areas.  Yearling male deer disperse the greatest distances, according to Batten, so antler point restrictions aren't good for disease management.

She said they've worked to increase harvest within one to two miles of where the disease has been found.  Landowners in designated areas may harvest additional deer during the regular hunting season, and agency-directed targeted culling efforts are designed to slow how fast the disease grows over time.

Batten said that's because CWD is "a real threat to the long term sustainability" of the state's deer herd.  "So we're not talking about, you know, great impacts to the deer population in the immediate future," Batten said, "but we're looking long term to decades down the road."

MDC will host CWD meetings at these locations:

  • Oct. 4 in Bolivar at Southwest Baptist University Davis Theater in the Goodson Student Union, South Pike Ave. ?
  • Oct 9 in Cape Girardeau at the MDC Cape Girardeau Nature Center, 2289 County Park Drive
  • Oct. 16 in Kirksville at the MDC Northeast Regional Office, 3500 S. Baltimore
  • Oct. 18 in Jefferson City at the MDC Runge Conservation Nature Center, 330 Commerce Drive
  • Oct. 23 in Perryville at the Perry Park Center in the Theater, 800 City Park Drive
  • Oct. 25 in Branson at the College of the Ozarks in the Silver Dollar City Parlor Meeting Room in the Keeter Center, 100 Opportunity Avenue, Point Lookout

All meetings start at 6:30 p.m., and no registration is required. 
The presentation will also be posted on MDC's website, and comments will be taken online.