Changes to deer and elk regulations have been approved
SIKESTON -- Some may know it as Mad Deer Disease, others by its common name, Chronic Wasting Disease. No matter what you call it, it's a serious issue the Missouri Conservation Commission is working to control.
The Commission recently approved changes to regulations related to keeping captive deer and elk.
"Basically our goal is to try and make sure chronic wasting disease stays out of Missouri," Scott County Conservation Agent Leother Branch said. "We want to have some control in Missouri if we come across any existing sources of infection."
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, CWD hasn't been found in Missouri, but it's all around the state. The disease was found in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.
CWD is one of a class of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs. Although they are able to spread from one deer to another, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states there is no evidence that CWD can infect people.
"This disease is important to detect because of its affect on deer herds and elk herds," Southeast Missouri Department of Conservation Outdoor Skills Supervisor Mike Lancaster said. "It's very similar to Mad Cow Disease."
The Conservation Department will also implement a three-year program called Missouri's Chronic Wasting Disease Monitoring Program to watch over the state's wild deer herd. The Department will collect deer heads at check stations and send tissue samples to a federally approved lab in Wyoming. This testing program is completely voluntary.
"Hunters won't have to submit their deer," Lancaster assured. "In fact, there will probably be more volunteering than necessary."
Deer or elk with CWD show changes in natural behavior and can exhibit extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling, and tremors. CWD is always thought to be fatal to the infected animal, but it can take months or years before the symptoms of infection appear.
The Conservation Department's plan to prevent and track CWD also includes educating meat processors and taxidermists to ensure safe handling of animals that come from other states.
Missouri is one of the few states where agriculture, industry and conservation communities are working together to fight CWD. The Conservation Department authorizes wild deer and captive deer and elk at big-game hunting preserves, while the state Agriculture Department regulates farmed elk.
"It's always a joint effort when we're talking about livestock," Branch said. "They have different issues, but both departments can counteract the problem."
In addition, the Department of Agriculture will require anyone who wants to bring deer or elk into Missouri to get an entry permit from the state veterinarian. This will replace the current moratorium. These animals will also have to be tagged.
Beginning Sept. 30, all deer and elk coming into Missouri, regardless of place of origin, will have to come from herds that are documented to be CWD free for the past three years.
In conjunction with the recently eased deer hunting restrictions, the Conservation Department realizes the impact disease-free deer has on hunters.
Lancaster said: "It (CWD) has an ability to affect the hunters. If they're worried the deer is infected, they're not going to be able to enjoy the sport."
For more information on the CWD Monitoring Program, visit the Missouri Department of Conservation Web site at www.conservation.state.mo.us.