At its Aug. 24 meeting in Jefferson City, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that indefinitely suspend issuing permits for new big-game hunting facilities and new wildlife breeding facilities in Missouri that hold white-tailed deer or mule deer.
The regulation changes to suspend the issuance of new permits do not apply to wildlife breeders and game ranches with existing permits. The suspension of issuing permits does not include wildlife-breeders or game ranches who wish to hold approved wildlife species other than white-tailed deer or mule deer. Renewal of existing permits for hunting and breeding facilities will be considered under established requirements of the Wildlife Code.
“The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is responsible for managing and protecting the wildlife resources of the state and we take that responsibility very seriously,” says MDC Deputy Director Tom Draper. “With Chronic Wasting Disease now in Missouri, this suspension of issuing permits for new deer breeders and hunting ranches is one of several actions we are taking to help protect free-ranging deer from CWD, and to help ensure the health of captive deer and other cervids.”
MDC permit records show there are 27 permitted big-game hunting preserves in Missouri with white-tailed deer, and 277 permitted wildlife breeders with white-tailed deer.
MDC has held numerous open houses to share information and get public feedback on the issue of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Department actions to contain the disease.
MDC provided current information on CWD and the proposed suspension of issuing permits for new big-game ranches and wildlife breeders that hold white-tailed deer or mule deer to members of the Missouri Whitetail Breeders and Hunting Ranch Association at the Association’s annual conference on Aug. 4.
Draper adds that MDC continues to work with landowners, deer hunters, members of the captive cervid industry and others on the issue of CWD and welcomes related comments at mdc.mo.gov/node/17901.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal disease that attacks the nervous systems of cervids, such as white-tailed, mule and other types of deer. It is transmitted by animal-to-animal contact or soil-to-animal contact. It can spread through activities that unnaturally concentrate animals, the natural movement and dispersal of infected free-ranging deer, the transportation of live captive deer with CWD or the transportation and improper disposal of infected carcasses.
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, there is no evidence from existing research that CWD can spread to domestic livestock, such as sheep or cattle. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS), there is no evidence that CWD can infect people.
The first two cases of CWD in the state were found in 2010 and 2011 at two private big-game hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. Following those discoveries, the first two cases of CWD in free-ranging deer were confirmed in 2012 in Macon County. Missouri’s confirmed cases of CWD total 11 in captive deer from the private hunting preserves and five in free-ranging deer harvested in Macon County.
With the help of hunters, MDC has tested more than 35,000 free-ranging deer for CWD from all parts of the state since 2002 and up to 2012. As a result of that testing, MDC scientists have determined it is highly unlikely that CWD has been present in the state prior to its recent discovery in northeast Missouri.
Draper says that the Code changes allow time for MDC to further assess the CWD situation, continue to engage stakeholders, plan for the future and identify and utilize the best and most current science to manage the disease.
New federal regulations for the interstate movement and disease certification of captive deer and other cervids were recently open for review and comment through the Federal Register at www.federalregister.gov. Additional information is pending publication. Draper says that the Code changes also give MDC, deer breeders and others time to review these new regulations.
“Conservation efforts such as providing good habitat and progressive deer management practices on both public and private land make Missouri a great place to hunt deer,” Draper says. “The cultural, social and economic importance that white-tailed deer provide the people of our state is, and will continue to be, one of our top priorities.”
According to MDC, Missouri has more than 507,000 deer hunters who spend about $690 million in the state each year on deer hunting and related activities. This has an overall economic impact of $1.1 billion in Missouri each year and supports almost 12,000 jobs. Many Missourians also enjoy viewing deer. A 2009 Gallup survey found that about 91% of Missourians are somewhat or very interested in observing deer in the outdoors.
Other actions the Conservation Commission and MDC have taken to limit the spread of CWD in Missouri include regulation changes, recommendations and continuing sampling of harvested deer to test for CWD.
The Conservation Commission approved a regulation change in May that restricts activities that are likely to unnaturally concentrate white-tailed deer and promote the spread of CWD. The regulation will become effective Oct. 30. It bans the placement of grain, salt products, minerals and other consumable natural or manufactured products in the CWD Containment Zone, which consists of Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties. The regulation includes exceptions for backyard feeding of wildlife and normal agricultural, forest management, crop and wildlife food production practices.
The Conservation Commission also approved a regulation change in May that rescinds the antler-point restriction (four-point rule) in the CWD Containment Zone, which became effective July 1. Yearling and adult male deer have been found to exhibit CWD at higher rates than female deer so a reduction in the number of male deer can help limit the spread of CWD. The dispersal of yearling males from their natal or birth range in search of territory and mates is also one of the primary means of expanding the distribution of CWD.
MDC also encourages hunters who harvest deer in the CWD Containment Zone not to take whole deer carcasses or certain carcass parts out of the area.
MDC will also continue to work with hunters who harvest deer in the CWD Containment Zone to collect samples for CWD testing.
Detailed information can be found in MDC’s “2012 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information” booklet available at MDC offices, from permit vendors and online at mdc.mo.gov.
Image courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation