Meeting the Changing Needs of Wildlife

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Published on: Aug. 20, 2013

confirmed cases in north-central Missouri since 2010, with 11 of those occurring in two captive facilities, and the remaining 10 occurring in free-ranging deer within two miles of one of those facilities. The Department has held nine public meetings near that location, met with landowners in the area, and has worked to keep citizens informed. A CWD zone was established in 2011 and is composed of Adair, Macon, Linn, Chariton, Randolph, and Sullivan counties in north-central Missouri.

Since CWD was discovered in our free-ranging population, the Conservation Commission has modified our Wildlife Code to reduce the number of older animals in the CWD zone by removing antler point restrictions as well as eliminating activities, such as wildlife feeding, that tend to concentrate animals. These changes will help minimize the spread of CWD.

The Department recognizes these regulation changes have affected landowners, hunters, and business owners in north-central Missouri who have made significant personal sacrifices to reduce the rate of spread of this disease. While the occurrence of CWD was the catalyst to reevaluate the Wildlife Code, future regulation changes will address the risks of all diseases for both our captive and free-ranging wildlife populations.

The Department has a long history of engaging citizens on natural-resource issues and has worked with cervid owners since the 1940s. When CWD was discovered in our state, a Captive Cervid Working Group was formed to review disease issues in our wildlife populations. The group is composed of representatives from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Agriculture, sporting organizations, the Missouri Whitetail Breeders and Hunting Ranch Association, and the Missouri Elk Farmers Association.

Based on feedback from the Captive Cervid Working Group, research, and management priorities, the Department has identified several areas of concern related to disease transmission. Those items include the separation of captive and free-ranging wildlife populations, the movement of captive wildlife, disease testing approaches, herd certification programs, and facility contingency plans.

Help Shape Future Decisions

Over the next few months, the Department will go to our state’s 500,000 deer hunters, as well as other Missouri stakeholders, with a goal of maintaining healthy wildlife populations across our state. Public input on wildlife disease issues will be sought through meetings across Missouri. It is possible that, as a result of the information received, new Wildlife Code changes may be suggested to the Conservation Commission for review.

The Missouri Department of Conservation, guided by the public trust doctrine, authorized by our state’s constitution, works for all stakeholders. Often these stakeholders have differing views and approaches, which creates significant complexities. Managing our public trust resources, using the best science available, and incorporating the needs and desires of an ever-changing society is what was mandated by Missouri citizens more than 75 years ago. This same expectation exists today and will continue to shape our state’s natural resources into the future.

Landowner Conservationists

The strength of the “Missouri Plan” for conservation has always been citizen involvement. Conservation works here because Show-Me State citizens cherish their forests, fish, and wildlife and have a personal commitment ensuring the future of those resources.

That certainly has been the case with the challenge presented by chronic wasting disease (CWD). Landowners in 29 sections of land in the Core Area of the CWD Containment Zone have stepped up to meet this challenge. Their help has been critical in CWD sampling that enables the Conservation Department to determine where the disease has spread to free-ranging deer. As we learn where CWD has spread, committed landowners are helping check the spread of the disease by reducing deer population density in affected areas. Some are harvesting more deer. Others allow the Conservation Department to come onto their land and remove deer.

This is no small thing. These landowner conservationists treasure Missouri’s deer-hunting tradition and the connection it provides to the land, family, and friends. They are making a painful sacrifice in the interest of the greater good — protecting this tremendously valuable resource for the rest of the state.

We owe a debt of thanks to these dedicated conservationists. They join a long and illustrious line of Missourians extending back to 1937, folks who have stood at the front line of conservation and done what had to be done.

Citizens often tell Conservation Department employees how much they appreciate our work, but the truth is that conservation works because of you. Without your support, our efforts would be in vain. We are deeply appreciative of all YOU do for conservation.

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