Every year upon donning into our camo and stepping into the field, we have our eyes peeled for the deer of a lifetime. Ideally the deer we harvest will be healthy and in good body condition in addition to being worthy of mounting while putting many delicious meals on the table. This may be the goal, but more and more hunters may be surprised with another type of deer instead, that being one infected with Chronic Wasting Disease.
Chronic Wasting Disease, also known as CWD, is in the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) which is an illness classification that affects members of the deer family of species. At times mistaken for hemorrhagic disease, or HD, Chronic Wasting Disease is transmitted through prions, or abnormal proteins. Though deer can live with CWD for years, eventually they will become symptomatic as the disease attacks the lymph nodes, tonsils, eyes, spleen, spinal cord, and brain with these organs beginning to degenerate. Deer essentially take on a wasted or malnourished appearance, salivate excessively, stumble, grind teeth, and appear disoriented while walking erratically until death takes place. CWD is currently incurable and no vaccine for its prevention exists.
Photo: Bull Creek Blog
Chronic Wasting Disease is easily spread amongst deer both by direct or indirect means which is what makes its presence so concerning. Though it has been found in more than 20 states including Missouri, it was limited to the areas of Linn and Macon counties. To keep it under control, a containment zone was established that included the counties of Chariton, Randolph, Adair, and Sullivan in addition to Linn and Macon. However, recent developments have led to a need for the containment zone to be re-evaluated.
Several counties away from the containment zone a deer was discovered with CWD in the 2014-2015 season. This deer was taken in Cole County, creating a source of concern for wildlife officials. Although it is speculated that this particular deer most likely did not come into contact with affected deer in the containment zone, this opens up the possibility of CWD spreading in another part of the state where the disease could be present unbeknownst to us until now.
Since CWD is a problem that Missouri has been trying to keep under control for some time, efforts are now being adjusted in order to compensate for this new discovery. New regulations are as follows:
1. The point restriction on antlers has been changed, adding 14 more counties to the list where young bucks can be harvested as these deer tend to travel more and are therefore most likely to transmit disease. These counties are: Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Knox, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Putnam, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, and Ste. Genevieve.
2. Antlerless firearms permits will be increased in availability from one to two per hunter in many of the counties listed above.
3. Landowners will continually be allowed management seals (up to five) which will allow those who hunt on that property to take additional deer.
The efforts to contain the disease are being beefed up before it becomes too large of a problem to control. Though only 26 deer were found to have the disease in Missouri since 2012, steps are necessary to keep numbers from rising. Carcasses need to be handled properly, more information about which can be found here. Should you take a deer that appears infected, notifying the Missouri Department of Conservation (877-853-5665) should be immediately placed at the top of your to-do list.
How you do you feel about the presence of CWD in your state? Are the new regulations a source of concern to you? Let us know in the comments.