Meeting the Changing Needs of Wildlife
million Missourians identified themselves as “wildlife watchers” and nine out of 10 Missouri citizens said they had an interest in fish, forest, and wildlife resources. In fact, one out of every four Missouri citizens between the ages of 16 and 65 had a permit that allowed them to hunt or fish in our state. There were 1.1 million Missouri anglers and more than 608,000 resident hunters.
Out of all Missouri hunters, half a million of them pursued white-tailed deer. Deer hunting is big business in Missouri and supports more than 12,000 jobs and generates more than $1 billion in economic activity every year.
Management and the Wildlife Code
We have faced challenges to our natural resources throughout our state’s history. A primary challenge today is dealing with the effects of a highly mobile society. Issues that are on the other side of the globe can be on Missouri’s doorstep in a matter of days, if not hours. The movement of wildlife, plants, invasive species, and disease can happen quickly. However, our state’s Wildlife Code, which is composed of the regulations approved by the Conservation Commission, reduces the risk of exotic and invasive species, as well as diseases, by reducing their probability of establishment or slowing down their rate of expansion.
Over the past decade, there have been a number of issues that required changes to our Wildlife Code. Issues such as whirling disease that could have a devastating impact on Missouri’s trout populations and didymo, which could significantly alter our cold-water streams, have required constituent involvement, stakeholder support, and Wildlife Code modifications.
Missouri’s Wildlife Code has evolved over the past 75 years. It is evaluated through periodic reviews and regularly updated to reflect changing biological information.
Chronic Wasting Disease
The occurrence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in our state has revealed areas within our Wildlife Code that need to be re-examined. In 2003, the Department, in cooperation with other state agencies and stakeholders, developed a CWD contingency plan for both our free-ranging and captive herds. Missouri was the first state in the nation to develop such a plan. Unfortunately, that plan had to be implemented in 2010.
CWD has only been in our free-ranging herd a short period of time. The disease is always fatal and poses a significant risk to Missouri’s deer herds. The Department has tested more than 38,000 free-ranging deer for the disease. There have been 21