The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announced on Tuesday that recent testing of hunter-harvested deer from 2013 showed no signs of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Missouri’s history with the disease began in 2010 when a captive deer in Linn County tested positive for CWD. In 2012, that number increased to five, prompting concerns that the disease was spreading among the state’s deer population. No cases have been found this year, but that does not necessarily mean that CWD is gone from the state.
“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 wildlife veterinarian Kelly Straka. “Therefore, continued surveillance is important.”
Thanks to hunters the MDC was able to test 3,666 free-ranging deer, of which 1,520 came from containment zones. None tested positive for CWD, a disease that only affects animals in the deer family. CWD is cause for concern because the disease is always fatal and nearly impossible to remove after it has become established. CWD causes rapid degeneration of the brain, leading to behavioral changes and weight loss in the affected animal before death. If the disease becomes widespread, it could devastate the state’s deer population and the nearly $1 billion economic impact from deer hunting. The MDC is working in cooperation with landowners and hunters to monitor the disease.
“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,” 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.”
It is estimated that 12,000 jobs—such as taxidermists, outfitters, and meat processors—in the state depend on a healthy deer population.
Image courtesy Noppadol Paothong/Missouri Department of Conservation