JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will hold six informational open houses for the public in August in communities around where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in north-central Missouri. Each open house will begin with a presentation on CWD, MDC testing for the disease and cases found, disease-management actions MDC is taking to help limit the spread of the disease and what hunters, landowners and others can do to help. Following the presentation, attendees can visit with MDC staff to get more information and ask questions.
The open houses will be:
“These open houses are a great opportunity to come and learn more about MDC’s efforts concerning CWD,” said MDC Deer Biologist Jason Sumners. “There are actions the general public can take to help limit the spread of CWD. We want to make sure the public is aware of these options and answer any questions they might have.”
Sumners added that white-tailed deer are a valuable part of Missouri’s hunting heritage and local economies. More than 500,000 Missouri deer hunters are vital partners in keeping the state’s deer herd healthy, along with supporting the state and local economies. Deer hunters spend more than $690 million directly related to deer hunting each year. This adds up to over $1 billion in overall business activity and supports more than 11,000 jobs.
For more information on the CWD open houses, contact the MDC Northeast Regional Office in Kirksville at 660-785-2420.
Missouri’s first cases of CWD were found in 2010 and 2011 in captive deer at private hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. Eleven cases have been found in captive deer at the preserves. MDC has confirmed five cases of CWD in free-ranging deer in the area around the Macon County preserve.
CWD is a fatal disease in deer and other cervids and can take months or years before symptoms of infection appear. Animals with signs of CWD show changes in natural behavior and can exhibit extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling and tremors. CWD is transmitted by animal-to-animal contact and soil-to-animal contact. CWD in deer can only be confirmed by laboratory tests of brain stem or lymph tissue.
MDC’s disease-management steps to help contain the spread of CWD include two regulation changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, recommendations on transportation and disposal of deer carcasses and continuing CWD sampling of deer harvested in the area where CWD has been found.
The Conservation Commission approved a regulation change at its May 25 meeting that places a restriction on activities that are likely to unnaturally concentrate white-tailed deer and promote the spread of CWD. The ban on the placement of grain, salt products, minerals and other consumable natural or manufactured products is limited to the area where CWD has been found in Macon County and is comprised of Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties.
The regulation includes exceptions for backyard feeding of birds and other wildlife within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building, or if feed is placed in such a manner to reasonably exclude access by deer. The regulation also includes exceptions for normal agricultural, forest-management, crop and wildlife food-production practices.
According to Sumners, the reason for the regulation change is that activities such as feeding and placement of minerals/salts that artificially concentrate deer greatly increase the likelihood of disease transmission from animal to animal or from soil to animal.
Farmers are encouraged to store feed in a manner that makes it inaccessible to deer and to remove salt and minerals when cattle are not present to help minimize the potential for disease transmission among deer.
The Conservation Commission also approved a regulation change at its May 25 meeting for a special harvest provision that rescinds the antler-point restriction (four-point rule) in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties.
According to Sumners, the reason for the regulation change is that management strategies such as antler-point restrictions, which protect yearling males and promote older bucks, can increase prevalence rates and further spread the disease.
Sumners explained that yearling and adult male deer have been found to exhibit CWD at higher rates than yearling and adult females. He added that the movement of young male deer from their birth range in search of territory and mates is also a way of expanding the distribution of CWD.
MDC also encourages hunters who harvest deer in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties not to take whole deer carcasses or carcass parts out of the area where CWD has been found. Exceptions to this include meat that is cut and wrapped, meat that has been boned out, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, hides or capes from which all excess tissue has been removed, antlers, antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue, upper canine teeth and finished taxidermy products.
According to Sumners, the reason for this recommendation is that CWD can be transmitted from the environment to deer through soil and water that contain infected waste and/or infected carcasses. Deer can be infected with CWD but have no visible signs or symptoms. Moving harvested deer that still have parts known to concentrate CWD (brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes) from the area known to have CWD can introduce the disease to other parts of the state through the improper disposal of carcasses.
He explained that hunters should make every attempt to avoid moving the head and spinal cord from the area and properly dispose of potentially infected deer carcasses, including bones and trimmings, to minimize the risk of exposure to uninfected deer. MDC advises hunters to double-bag carcass parts and take them directly to a landfill, or place them in trash cans for pick-up. Burying carcass waste deep enough to prevent scavengers from digging it up is another acceptable option. As a last resort, hunters can put carcass waste back as close as possible to where the deer was harvested so as to not spread CWD-causing prions to new locations. If possible, put the carcass in a location where it will be inaccessible to scavengers and other deer.
Sumners added that MDC will also continue to work with hunters who harvest deer this fall from September through January in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties to collect samples for CWD testing. Details can be found in the MDC “2012 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information” booklet available at MDC offices, where permits are sold and online at mdc.mo.gov.