Following the detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in 5 wild North Central Missouri deer, the MDC has defined a 6 county "CWD Containment Zone" with some new rules and suggestions. You can find details on the web at mdc.mo.gov or by contacting your local MDC office.
Though CWD is a complex and emerging topic, there are a lot of simple questions on the minds of Missouri deer hunters. Here is our attempt to answer some of them. Visit NoMOcwd.org to learn more.
Q: Can I take deer I shoot out of the CWD zone?
A: The MDC prefers that you do not. If you do, it is vital that you ensure the carcass including hide, bones and trimmings are safely disposed of in a landfill or by a deer processor or by placing it in your household trash for pickup. Trash companies accept wildlife carcasses if double bagged to prevent leakage. Burying deep enough that no scavenger can dig is also considered acceptable.
Q: Why did the MDC remove antler point restrictions in the CWD zone?
A: To remove protection from yearling bucks. Bucks are more prone to CWD infection than does, and yearling bucks often travel far, seeking better territory. This is a key cause of CWD range expansion.
Q: Hasn"t CWD probably always been out there?
A: No. While a similar disease (scrapie) has been known to be in sheep for hundreds of years, there is little doubt that CWD is a new disease that first appeared in a Colorado wildlife research facility in 1967. There is no evidence that cervids (deer, elk, moose) were susceptible to any prion disease before 1967.
Q: Won't natural selection handle this for us, with the diseased animals dying and the resistant animals living to breed?
A: We can hope, but it doesn"t look good. So far no deer appear resistant. CWD is 100% fatal. Prion diseases are very different from the viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic diseases we are all familiar with. It is not something to which the immune system is able to react.
Q: Can CWD transfer to humans or livestock?
A: The experts say so far it apperars unlikely. But prion diseases are tricky and researchers will not say the risk is zero. The US Centers for Disease Control says to avoid eating meat from a CWD infected animal. For a detailed article see NoMOcwd.org/health.
Q: Why did the MDC ban salt licks and feeding deer in the CWD zone?
A: Because those activities unnaturally gather deer into small areas. CWD is primarily transmitted through saliva and waste. Anything to reduce deer being gathered together in close proximity may inhibit the spread of infection. The feeding ban has exceptions for residential bird and wildlife feeding, common agricultural practices, and food plots.
Q: Is CWD going to flare up and destroy the herd?
A: No, it is much more like a small but relentless smoldering fire. In parts of Colorado and Wyoming CWD has taken 40 years to cut the herd in half.
Q: Can infected deer appear healthy?
A: Yes. Prions damage the brain and nervous system, usually taking at least 16 months before the damage is visually obvious. Symptoms progress swiftly at that point, normally resulting in death within a month or two.
Q: I hunt in the CWD zone, and process my own deer. Anything I should know?
A: Avoid cutting spine and skull. If you need to remove antlers, dedicate a saw to that purpose and don"t use it for other butchering duties. Bone out the meat while avoiding cutting bone. Trim away fatty tissues - some of which hold lymph nodes in which prions concentrate. Discard the carcass, trimmings, and un-trimmed hides in a responsible manner (see the first question).
Q: If I see an obviously sick deer while hunting in the CWD zone , what should I do?
A: If you can legally and safely do so, shoot it, notch your tag, leave it in place (don't touch it) and immediately notify the MDC. They usually replace your tag if the animal is obviously sick and was reported immediately.
To learn more about Chronic Wasting Disease, visit http://NoMOcwd.org.
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