MDC reminds residents not to place food attractants in CWD counties

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KIRKSVILLE, Mo. – Missouri boasts one of the largest deer herds in North America, topping one million in number.  Missouri’s deer herd has been affected by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in several counties.  CWD is a prion disease, or a disease that affects an animal’s nervous system. CWD affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness, and other neurologic symptoms. CWD can affect animals of all ages, and CWD is fatal to animals as there are no treatments or vaccines.  One of the ways that the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) tries to slow the spread and frequency of the disease is by restricting feeding of wildlife in counties that have been infected with CWD. 

MDC has instituted a rule that states that, “grain, salt products, minerals, and other consumable products used to attract deer are prohibited year-round within CWD Management Zone counties. The following exceptions are allowed:

  • Feed placed within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building
  • Feed placed in a manner that excludes access by deer
  • Feed and minerals used solely for normal agricultural, forest management, or wildlife food-plot production practices.”

MDC recognizes that people may want to place bird feeders or other attractants to watch wildlife near their house.  The rule allows you to place feeders near your residence, and MDC encourages the use of bird seed that does not attract deer, such as safflower and nyjer.  Through using bird seed that does not attract deer, residents can still enjoy birdwatching without drawing in other animals such as deer.  When animals are forced into a confined location for easy availability of food, disease can spread more rapidly than normal. In counties where CWD is spreading, avoiding the artificial congregation of deer is a priority.

Animals can survive the winter without human interference for the most part, so it is not usually necessary for humans to aid wildlife by providing food. With this in mind, it is illegal to place any food attractants in CWD counties away from one’s residence.