ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Department of Conservation plans mandatory inspection of deer killed in 29 counties during the opening weekend of the November firearms season as part of the effort to battle a deadly disease.
The department has established a “Chronic Waste Disease Management Zone” in northern and central Missouri for the weekend of Nov. 12-13, the busiest period for deer hunting in Missouri.
Missouri Department of Conservation Wildlife Division chief Jason Sumners said early detection is critical because once the disease is established in an area, it’s virtually impossible to eradicate. The new testing, he said, “will greatly improve our ability to find cases of CWD early and limit its spread to more deer in more areas.”
It’s the state’s first-ever mandatory testing for chronic wasting disease, which produces holes in brain tissue, weight loss, tremors, and, eventually, death; there is no cure. Elk, moose, white-tail deer and mule deer are susceptible to the disease, with infection occurring through contact with other deer and infected soil.
Since 2001, 33 cases of chronic wasting disease have been confirmed in Missouri’s wild deer — 21 in Macon County, 9 in Adair County, and one each in Cole, Franklin and Linn counties. The new management zone includes those counties and neighboring areas.
The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance recommends humans avoid meat from infected animals, even though there is no evidence that the disease poses a risk.
Missouri’s November firearms deer season runs Nov. 12-22. About one-third of deer taken occurs on the opening two days, Sumners said.
The conservation department said hunters in the management zone must take the deer, or the head with at least six inches of the neck, to one of 75 sampling stations on the day of the kill. The deer’s lymph nodes will be removed for lab testing.
Some restrictions also are in place within the 29-county zone. Hunters are asked to report any sick deer sightings to a conservation agent or regional office.
Deer hunters also are encouraged not to move whole deer carcasses from inside the zone. Instead, they should cut and wrap the meat, with no part of the spine or head attached, and clean antlers of muscle and brain tissue.
Grain, salt products, minerals and other items used to attract deer are prohibited year-round, with some exceptions. Department officials say attracting deer through artificial means creates a concentration in a small area, increasing the chance of spreading chronic wasting disease.
The 29 counties include: Adair, Boone, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Crawford, Cole, Cooper, Franklin, Gasconade, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Putnam, St. Charles, St. Louis, Randolph, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan, Washington and Warren.