While promising news, the fatal disease for deer remains a significant threat.
Following the testing of 3,666 free-ranging deer harvested during and after the 2013 deer-hunting season, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has detected no additional cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Missouri free-ranging deer.
The total number of confirmed cases in Missouri free-ranging deer remains limited to 10 found in 2012 and early 2013. All were from a small area of northwest Macon County near where CWD was confirmed in 10 captive deer in 2012 at a private hunting preserve. Missouri’s first case of CWD was discovered in 2010 in a captive deer at private hunting facility in southeast Linn County owned by the same private hunting preserve.
“While I am cautiously optimistic that these latest test results suggest our efforts to limit the spread of CWD may be working, the threat of this infectious disease remains significant,” said MDC State Wildlife Veterinarian Kelly Straka. “Therefore, continued surveillance is important.”
Of the 3,666 deer tested, 1,520 were from Department’s CWD Containment Zone of Chariton, Randolph, Macon, Linn, Sullivan, and Adair counties. Of the 1,520, 206 were from the 30-square-mile CWD Core Area around the private hunting preserve in Macon County where cases of the disease were discovered in captive deer.
The remaining 2,146 test samples were gathered from deer harvested outside of the six-county Containment Zone as part of MDC’s ongoing statewide sampling effort.
As done in the past two years, MDC again worked with local landowners during January and February to harvest and test 147 free-ranging deer as part of 206 samples collected in the CWD Core Area. The effort was done to monitor infection rates and help limit the spread of the disease from deer to deer by reducing local deer numbers.
“More than 90 percent of Missouri land is privately owned, so landowners are vital to deer management and to our ongoing efforts to limit the spread of CWD,” Dr. Straka said. “We greatly appreciate the cooperation of local landowners in the CWD Core Area who participated in this effort. Their sacrifice in temporarily reducing local deer numbers is helping to protect the health of deer throughout the state.”
She added that MDC will continue working with hunters and landowners to test harvested free-ranging deer for CWD during future deer seasons.
Missouri offers some of the best deer hunting in the country, and deer hunting is an important part of many Missourians’ lives and family traditions. Infectious diseases such as CWD could reduce hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities for Missouri’s nearly 520,000 deer hunters and almost two million wildlife watchers.
Deer hunting is also an important economic driver in Missouri and gives a $1 billion annual boost to state and local economies. Lower deer numbers from infectious diseases such as CWD could hurt 12,000 Missouri jobs and many businesses that rely on deer hunting as a significant source of revenue, such as meat processors, taxidermists, hotels, restaurants, sporting goods stores, and others. CWD also threatens the investments of thousands of private landowners who manage their land for deer and deer hunting, and who rely on deer and deer hunting to maintain property values.
Chronic wasting disease infects only deer and other members of the deer family by causing degeneration of the brain. The disease has no vaccine or cure and is 100-percent fatal. CWD is spread both directly from deer to deer and indirectly to deer from infected soil and other surfaces. Deer and other cervids can have CWD for several years without showing any symptoms. Once symptoms are visible, infected animals typically die within one or two months. Once well established in an area, CWD has been shown to be impossible to eradicate.
For more information on CWD, including what MDC is doing to limit the spread, and what hunters and others can do to help, go online to mdc.mo.gov/node/16478.
Logo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation