The Missouri Department of Conservation is increasing its efforts to slow the spread of the deadly deer disease called Chronic Wasting Disease by proposing new regulations that would add carcass disposal requirements for meat processors and taxidermists.
Joe Jerek, MDC news services coordinator, said some of the proposed regulations are similar to longstanding regulations that already place restrictions on the transport of deer carcasses into Missouri.
He said CWD is a deadly disease in white-tailed deer that has no vaccine or cure.
The infectious prions that cause CWD are mostly concentrated in the spines and heads of deer so moving potentially infected carcasses out of the immediate areas where they were harvested and improperly disposing of them can spread the disease.
Jerek said the conservation department has attempted to slow the spread of CWD in deer by placing regulations in counties found within a CWD Management Zone which is a 25-mile radius from where a positive animal was detected.
The newly proposed regulations are as follows:
Restrict transportation of whole deer carcasses into the state
Allow for the importation of deer heads with capes attached into Missouri if they are taken to a licensed taxidermist.
Within the MDC CWD Management Zone, limit the transportation of whole deer carcasses out of the county of harvest, except for whole carcasses being transported to a permitted taxidermist or meat processor within 48 hours.
Within the MDC CWD Management Zone, allow the transportation of “low-risk” carcass parts out of the county of harvest, which includes meat that is cut and wrapped or boned out, quarters without the spinal column attached, antlers, and finished taxidermy products.
Require meat processors and taxidermists to discard cervid carcass remains in a properly permitted landfill or waste transfer station.
Require that meat processors and taxidermists keep records of cervid carcass disposal.
Jerek said most states where the disease has been detected have similar restrictions on carcass movement.
In addition, he said most meat processors and taxidermists are licensed and are already properly disposing of deer carcasses.
He said research shows that infected deer carcasses left on the landscape can spread CWD to other deer that come in contact with it. Therefore, moving potentially infected carcasses to new areas and improperly disposing of them can spread the disease.
The conservation department has tested more than 130,000 deer for CWD since the first cases were detected in 2010 and 2011 in two northeast Missouri counties. Most of those deer tested were harvested by hunters.
Since then, the number of CWD detections has increased to 116. The disease has been found in 16 counties in the northeast, southwest, southeast, central, west-central and eastern areas of the state — often many miles from any other known cases.
Department research suggests it is highly unlikely that the spread of CWD to some of the new areas of the state is from the natural movement of deer and more likely from carcass movement by humans. Some new cases of CWD were found more than 60 miles from any other known cases.
As part of its rulemaking process, MDC is asking for public comment on the proposed regulations through early August online at short.mdc.mo.gov/Z49.
The Missouri Conservation Commission will make a final decision during its Aug. 23 meeting. If approved, the anticipated effective date of the regulations would be Feb. 29, 2020.