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Chronic Wasting Disease Continues to Spread in Missouri

Missouri’s designation as a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) state seems to be solidified. The fatal disease continues to show up in the CWD containment zone, and has now spread into a new area of the state. Missouri has long been recognized as a premier white-tailed deer hunting destination. Now we must wonder what the future holds.

This past week, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) issued a press release announcing 11 new cases of CWD. Of these new cases, 10 were found in the north-central, six-county CWD zone (Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph, and Sullivan). The worst news was that one case was found far outside the CWD zone in Cole County near Centertown.

MDC has discovered 14 new cases of CWD in free-ranging deer this year, bringing the total free-range count to 24. The always fatal disease was first discovered in a captive deer facility near Macon in 2010. Including 11 captive deer that have tested positive for CWD, 35 cases have now been discovered in Missouri.

According to the MDC press release, the Department has collected more than 3,400 tissue samples for CWD testing from harvested and other free-ranging deer this season. Results for about 330 tissue samples are still in the process of being tested by an independent, outside laboratory.

“We will provide an update of final results once all testing has been completed for the season,” said MDC Deer Biologist Jason Sumners. “We will continue to monitor the spread of the disease through more CWD testing this coming fall and winter. We are also updating our efforts to help contain the spread of the disease and will be working out the details over this spring and summer.”

The debate on how CWD first arrived in Missouri has been and continues to be a hot topic of discussion. Many believe, myself included, that the transportation of captive deer around the country has led to the rapid spread of the disease into new areas. Thankfully, Missouri has now closed its borders to any further importation of captive deer, which could be carrying the disease. Others, mostly those associated with the captive industry, argue transporting deer is not an issue.

So now the CWD positive Cole County buck will become the catalyst of discussion and argument. How did the disease show up near Centertown? We don’t know, and likely never will. What happens now is weighing on the minds of many deer hunters south of the Missouri River.

Sumners has said certain restrictions may begin in Cole County, such as banning salt and mineral licks. As a property owner in Chariton County, where such a restriction already exists, I can personally tell you this is disheartening. As a landowner, you want to be able to put out minerals to improve the health of the local herd as well as set up prime trail camera photo locations. With such a restriction, neither is possible.

In states like Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin, CWD has swept the landscape. According to Michael Samuel, a specialist in wildlife disease at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it is estimated that two out of five bucks in Wisconsin have CWD. If this is where Missouri is headed, then enjoy the near future. Because right now may be the end of the good old days.

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler

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