JEFFERSON CITY Mo – As part of its ongoing efforts to monitor Missouri’s free-ranging deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD), the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is asking hunters for help.
MDC encourages hunters who harvest adult deer in Linn, Macon and parts of Adair, Chariton, Randolph and Sullivan counties during the first two weekends of the November firearms portion (Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 19-20) to take their deer to the following processors and roadside collection sites for tissue sampling during the following dates.
“The process of collecting tissue samples will take only a few minutes and involves removing lymph nodes from the head,” said MDC Deer Biologist Jason Sumners. “The tissue sampling will not reduce the food value of deer. For those who harvest adult bucks and are worried about the taxidermy value of their mount, we are also working with many area taxidermists to collect tissue samples from adult bucks for CWD testing.”
Sumners added that hunters throughout the state who encounter or harvest deer in poor condition with no obvious injuries should contact their local conservation agent or MDC office. If appropriate, the deer will be tested for CWD.
He noted that the more than 500,000 Missouri deer hunters are vital partners in keeping the state’s deer herd healthy, along with the supporting the state economy.
“Adult deer have no widespread natural predators in Missouri so hunting is the primary way to control the population,” Sumners said. “Deer hunters spend more than $750 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.”
The voluntary hunter-harvested deer sampling effort is part of MDC’s response to a recent case of CWD found in a captive white-tailed deer. It is the second of only two confirmed cases of CWD in Missouri with both found in captive white-tailed deer at two separate private, captive hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. The facility where the first case was reported in February 2010 has been depopulated.
The second case was identified by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) in October 2011 as a result of increased surveillance required by the management plan implemented from the previous CWD incident. The MDC and MDC, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), continue their investigation of the incident.
CWD is a neurological disease that attacks the nervous systems of cervids, such as deer and elk, along with non-native cervids such as moose, red deer, fallow deer and sika deer. Cervids with clinical signs of CWD show changes in natural behavior and can exhibit extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling and tremors. CWD is thought to always be fatal to the infected animal, but it can take months or years before the symptoms of infection appear. CWD can spread through the natural movements of infected free-roaming cervids, the transportation of live captive cervids with CWD or the transportation of infected carcasses. CWD in deer can only be confirmed by laboratory examination of the brain stem or lymph tissue.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) stated there is no evidence CWD can infect people. The MDA stated that current research shows there is no evidence CWD can spread to domestic livestock, such as sheep or cattle.
While CWD is new to Missouri, the MDC and MDA have been testing for it for years. The agencies formed a state Cervid Health Committee in 2002 to address the threat of CWD to Missouri. This task force is composed of conservation agents, veterinarians and animal health officers from MDC, MDA, MDHSS and the USDA.
With the help of hunters, the MDC has tested more than 31,000 free-ranging deer for CWD from all parts of the state since 2002 with no cases found.
Sumners noted that Missouri residents who hunt deer, elk or moose in other states should be aware of regulations regarding chronic wasting disease. The Missouri Wildlife Code requires that hunters who bring deer, elk or moose into Missouri with heads or spinal columns attached to report the carcasses’ entry by calling 1-877-853-5665 within 24 hours of entering the state. If heads or spinal cords are intact on the animals, hunters cannot process the meat or trophy mounts themselves and must take the carcasses to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry. Meat processors and taxidermists are required to dispose of spinal cords and other parts in a properly permitted landfill. Hunters do not need to report if they simply bring back meat, hides, antlers, teeth, skulls or skull plates with no brain tissue attached.
For more information, refer to page 9 of the “2011 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information” booklet. The booklet is available where permits are sold, including MDC offices, and online at www.mdc.mo.gov.