The 292 positive chronic wasting disease cases documented in Missouri seem like a statistical blip among the 210,000 tissue samples tested since the disease was first discovered in the state in 2011. It’s even less dramatic compared to the more than 2 million deer that have been harvested by hunters over those same years.
But locally in and around Jefferson County the numbers are significant and recent reporting shows the effort to control CWD going the wrong direction. Actually, a case should be made that finding more is better, because those diseased deer are no longer infecting others in their herd. It would be much worse to be in a state that refused or limited testing, because it seemed better not to know. Claiming something bad doesn’t exist, because you don’t look for it does not seem like a positive approach.
Chronic wasting disease is a deadly infectious disease that eventually kills all animals it affects. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread from deer to humans who consume them, but it is similar to the degenerative brain disorders mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
The state Department of Conservation works to investigate potential for the disease and to inform the public and hunters about efforts to control the spread among deer. Three public meetings are planned in the region, which has become a hot spot for CWD based on recent testing.
The first meeting is planned from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Festus VFW. The second and third meetings have the same time schedule on Aug. 10 at the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center, and Aug. 16 at Perry Park Center in Perryville.
“If you’ve been to our public meetings before, these will be different,” said Matt Bowyer, administrator for the conservation department’s southeast region. “The goal of this meeting is to update you on management of CWD in the area and to provide landowners with different strategies to help manage the disease throughout the year.”
Among the new strategies will be opportunities for landowners and hunters to harvest additional deer during the regular hunting season. Emphasis in recent years has been on piling up samples in targeted areas after the hunting seasons have ended. From January through March this year, an additional 3,000 deer were taken for testing during post-season targeted culling in the specific areas where the disease had been detected.
Jefferson County reported 12 new cases this past season in an area south of Festus and east of De Soto. In the five previous years since the disease was first discovered here, there had been only nine total cases. Ste. Genevieve County had an even larger jump with 15 new cases this season.
The meetings will provide general information on chronic wasting disease and the steps the state is taking to monitor and manage the disease. Other topics will address proper deer-carcass handling and disposal to help limit the spread, how hunters can participate in the Share the Harvest program to provide lean meat to local food pantries, voluntary CWD testing efforts, and mandatory sampling in certain counties during the opening weekend of firearms deer season. Conservation department staff will be available to answer questions.
Landowners who receive notification letters may apply for management permits to allow hunters to take additional deer during the season. The letter includes information on the application process. Hunters who participate through cooperating landowners need to provide their names, birth dates and conservation ID numbers.
For more information about the local meetings call 573-332-4940.
Hunters everywhere in the state can help manage the disease by getting the deer they harvest tested. More information about testing options, and the map showing positive case locations, is available at mdc.mo.gov/cwd.
Originally published by Leader Publications on July 28, 2022.