515 Barry County deer to be tested for chronic wasting disease
Department of Conservation collects nearly 16,000 samples
Deer season is a time-honored tradition that both new and seasoned hunters look forward to each year, and this year, new requirements had to be put in motion to help keep that tradition in place.
On Nov. 12 and 13, opening weekend of firearms season, the Missouri Department of Conservation required hunters in 25 counties to bring in harvested deer to sampling sites to test for chronic wasting disease (CWD). In Barry County, 515 deer were sampled, and results are expected to return in about four to six weeks.
"That number did not include fawns or deer headed for taxidermy," said Warren Rose, Washburn native and outreach and education regional supervisor and CWD group coordinator for Barry and Stone counties. "We took those hunters' information, but we did not take samples. We got a lot of positive feedback, and hunters were appreciative we are look for disease and glad to know their efforts will help to detect it if should be found."
The mandatory sampling focusing on counties within approximately 25 miles of CWD detection sites was a strategic effort to limit the deadly degenerative brain disease, which has been confirmed in some deer populations in areas of northeast, central and east-central Missouri, and Arkansas.
The Department provided 56 sampling stations in the 25 counties, focusing their efforts on the most popular weekend of the hunting season to give them the best opportunity to collect the most tissue samples in a short amount of time.
During testing, which involves a quick process wherein a biologist removes lymph nodes from the animal to send in to a lab for analysis, hunters were asked to identify the location in the county where the deer was killed.
Vernon Archer, office manager for the southwest regional office, which is based in Springfield, reported that about 15,872 samples were collected statewide over opening weekend.
"We didn't know what to expect [in terms of numbers] since we expanded it to different counties," he said.
Results are expected to take between four to eight weeks to get back, Archer said, and if a deer tested positive, hunters will be notified by mail. Hunters can also check results at https://mdc.mo.gov by entering their conservation number.
The disease poses no threat to people, but must be managed.
"We're concerned about the spreading of chronic wasting disease," said Daniel Shores, Barry County conservation agent. "It's a neurological condition that occurs in nature, and can be transferred from deer-to-deer. The closest thing to compare it to is mad cow disease. It could wipe out a large amount of deer in a short period of time. We haven't had a case in Barry County yet, but Arkansas, which is a short distance away from our county line, has had several cases."
A deer with the disease will present as a lack of coordination, paralysis, no fear of humans, excessive salivation and emaciation. The Department is asking anyone seeing with these symptoms to report it to their local conservation agent.
“Early detection of chronic wasting disease is critical because once the disease is well established in an area, it is impossible to eradicate,” said Jason Sumners, wildlife division chief for the Conservation Department. “Increased testing in and around areas where the disease has been found will greatly improve our ability to find cases early and limit its spread to more deer in more areas."
The Department began testing suspect deer for the disease in 2001. The first case in Missouri was found in 2011, and voluntary sampling was increased in recent years in counties where new cases arose.
The mandatory testing also sought to protect the age-old tradition of deer hunting.
“We want our kids and grandkids to grow up being able to hunt and watch a healthy and strong deer population,” Sumners said. "Chronic wasting disease threatens that."
For the remainder of the season, testing is voluntary, and staff will still be available to remove tissue samples.
"There are voluntary sites hunters can take deer to, if the deer were found in the CWD management zones," Archer said.
Those zones can be found in the 2017 fall deer and turkey regulations booklet, which is available where hunters buy permits.
According to Shores, as of July 1, it became illegal to set out products that attract deer to property, such as salt blocks and corn minerals, year-round within the CWD management zone. The requirement is part of the effort to prevent the spread of CWD.
The following exceptions are allowed:
• Feed placed within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building
• Feed placed in a manner that excludes access by deer
• Feed and minerals used solely for normal agricultural, forest management, or wildlife food plot production practices
Shores asked hunters for their understanding on the requirements.
"It's really about finding out what we need to do," he said. "Do we have a pocket of CWD somewhere? Hunters are going to have to be patient and roll with the punches, because it really is in their best interests."
For more information on voluntary testing locations and hours, Shores can be reached at 417-229-4706. Hunters may also call their local conservation office at 417-847-5949, or visit https://mdc.mo.gov/.