The Conservation Department is spreading the word this summer of what it wants the state’s hunters to do to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in Missouri’s deer herd.
CWD is a fatal, degenerative neurological disease effecting the nervous system of cervids like deer, elk and moose.
Deer Biologist Jason Sumners says it poses a serious threat. “Long term outlook for the deer population, particularly locally, isn’t good … Chronic wasting disease is a disease that will slowly accumulate over time and it is likely to have population level impacts, particularly locally.”
16 deer have tested positive for CWD in the state. 5 of those have been free-ranging deer and the rest captive, all in or within a few miles of a hunting preserve in northwest Macon County.
The Conservation Commission last week enacted some new regulations as part of the effort to slow the spread. One is a regulation prohibiting feeding deer or the placement of grain, salt and minerals in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan Counties; what the Department is calling a “CWD Containment Zone” around the preserve where those 16 positive results have come from.
Sumners explains the idea behind restricting the feeding of deer. “The disease is transmitted from animal-to-animal, likely through social grooming, through nose-to-nose contact; those kinds of interactions.” Sumners says feeding deer draws them into groups where such interactions occur.
Another step is discouraging the moving of whole carcasses or certain parts out of that containment zone.
“The brain, the spinal cords contain the highest concentrations of infectious material and so that presents some opportunity to introduce the disease.” Sumners encourages hunters to “double bag that waste and send it to the landfill or dispose of it in your municipal trash that ends up in the landfill, or bury the carcasses.”
Sumners says once CWD-infectious material is exposed to an area, the threat of infection lasts a long time. “It appears that it’s at a minimum a number of years, and maybe much longer than a few years. There’s work being done to try to figure out how long the prions can persist in the environment … what kind of things may play a role in breaking down the prions, but these are very resilient.”
The Commission also removed the antler point restriction within the containment zone through September 15. Sumners explains, “The disease will spread across the landscape through the natural movement of animals and yearling males are protected by the antler point restriction and those are the ones that disperse and move long distances, and so we’ve removed the regulatory aspect that prevented the harvest of that segment of the population.”
The Department will host an informational meeting Saturday from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m. at New Cambria High School on CWD.
Find out more about the Commission’s latest actions and the Department’s efforts to fight CWD at its website.