Concerns over a potentially widespread disease in the deer population is plaguing the Missouri Department of Conservation as many hunters begin hunting season.
The spread of Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) has been the topic of discussion within the department and with the community throughout the year leading up to the hunting season according to Conservation Department Agent Parker Rice.
“The way that the department is working on it right now is, I think they’re doing a lot of research on it,” Rice said. “There are people that are CWD experts that are working on this every day.”
The disease made its first appearance on private breeding farms and hunting facilities in Linn and Macon counties in 2010 and 2011. In the past eight years, the spread of CWD has affected 11 Missouri counties, and 33 confirmed cases of the incurable disease were detected in the 2017-18 season.
So far, Buchanan County has been spared from the disease which targets the brains of deer and spreads rapidly throughout the population, but there is concern that the illness could cross county lines as bucks move across mating grounds. In fact, one idea proposed by the MDC has been to limit hunters from bringing carcasses from infected areas to noninfected
Rice, who has yet to see an infected deer, encourages hunters to shoot deer that appear sickly so they can be tested. He said the department will work with hunters so this does not limit their tag county. The MDC describes infected deer as suffering from excessive salivation, tremors and emaciation, having drooping heads or ears and not having a natural fear of humans or coordination.
“If you do harvest a deer that appears sickly in any way, you should call me,” Rice advised. “I’d like to kind of know about that. We’re trying to keep an eye on that.”
According to the MDC, there is no evidence that consuming or coming into contact with an infected deer can affect humans, but they still advise that hunters take precautions when harvesting the venison. The MDC suggests hunters wear gloves when handling the meat, avoid cutting the spinal cord and brain which are the most affected areas and to avoid eating any organs of the carcass.
While many counties, like Buchanan, have avoided the disease so far, on a statewide basis new regulations on hunting and harvesting are being implemented to prevent the spread from affected zones. The MDC also has set up numerous testing facilities throughout the state for hunters who wish to confirm their deer is not infected.
For more information on CWD, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation at mdc.mo.gov/cwd.