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Hunters Can Help Prevent Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer

Deer Hunting
A father and son deer hunting during rifle season./ Credit: David Stonner, Missouri Department of Conservation

Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a fatal neurological disease in deer, often killing the animal in one or two months. It is spread deer to deer through direct contact and environmental contamination. As some 12,000 jobs in Missouri are tied to the sport, Jasmine Batten, wildlife health specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says successful hunters have an important role to play in CWD prevention.

“Proper carcass disposal could include removing your meat in the field and leaving the carcass behind. If you can bury it, that’s the best. If you harvest the deer at home, you can put the carcass parts in a trash bag, and properly dispose of them through a trash service or landfill,” Batten said.

CWD contamination zones have been located in these Missouri counties: Chariton, Randolph, Macon, Linn, Sullivan and Adair. In Linn and Macon counties, 11 captive and 10 free-ranging deer tested positive for the disease.  Batten says the Department of Conservation strongly encourages hunters in these areas not to remove the full carcasses from the field, or carcasses containing the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes.

Hunters who harvest deer should also be mindful of the disease, and have their deer tested at local taxidermy and conservation sites. Tony Orlandi works in the hunting department at Springfield’s Bass Pro Shop. He and his family have a long tradition of deer hunting, and over the years, they have been lucky to avoid CWD, unlike others they know.

“My neighbors down the road, they are reliant on that deer meat and that just absolutely devastated them whenever it happened,” Orlandi said.

However, it won’t stop Orlandi from continuing to enjoy his deer hunting. In fact, Jasmine Batten of the Missouri Department of Conservation encourages hunters to do what they do best, as long as they take necessary steps to prevent the disease from spreading.

There isn’t a cure for CWD, so the only action is prevention. The Missouri Department of Conservation estimate that 520,000 deer hunters will be in the woods this year. A link to CWD testing sites for deer, and a full list of precautions and restrictions can be found here.

For KSMU News, I’m Anna Thomas.