Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | November 1, 2020
From Missouri Conservationist: November 2020

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Wildlife Disease Management

White-Tailed Deer Study

If you hunt deer in Missouri, you know that chronic wasting disease (CWD) threatens our state’s wild deer and elk herds. It spreads easily and always kills the deer and elk it infects. CWD was first found in Missouri’s wild deer herd in 2012. Since then, it has spread from the north-central part of the state to many other locations inside Missouri.

“Initially, MDC designated a CWD Management Zone that included counties within 25 miles of a CWD-positive detection,” said MDC Private Lands Deer Biologist Kevyn Wiskirchen. “This designation was based on data from other Midwestern states that indicated white-tailed deer commonly disperse up to 25 miles.” Wiskirchen added that deer usually disperse in the first 18 months of life, and they can carry the disease with them if infected.

In 2015, MDC and the University of Missouri initiated a white-tailed deer survival, recruitment, and movement study to determine how far Missouri whitetails disperse.

Over five years, researchers captured male and female deer during late winter and fitted them with GPS radio-collars. This allowed researchers to track their movements.

An analysis of movement data indicated that over 90 percent of deer in the study dispersed less than 10 miles. Based on this new information, MDC reconstructed its CWD Management Zone to include counties within 10 miles of a CWD positive detection, down from 25 miles.

“This change has allowed a more targeted approach to CWD surveillance in Missouri, enabling MDC staff to more efficiently and effectively allocate resources in its efforts to ensure the health of Missouri’s deer herd,” Wiskirchen said.

White-Tailed Deer Study at a Glance

  • White-tailed deer capture
  • Radio collaring and monitoring
  • Data collection and mapping
Preliminary Results
  • More than 93% of collared deer dispersed less than 10 miles
  • Average female dispersal was 3.6 miles
  • Average male dispersal was 4.9 miles

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler