Conservation Officials Testing for Chronic Wasting Disease in Missouri

Nov 13, 2017

Kyle Hedges goes over recording samples with volunteers Saturday morning.
Credit Claire Kidwell / KSMU

At select testing sites around the state, officials collected samples from deer over the weekend to map out the scope of Chronic Wasting Disease in Missouri.

Missouri Department of Conservation Wildlife Management Biologist Kyle Hedges, along with other MDC officials and volunteers, worked from the parking lot of Bolivar Fire Station #2 on Saturday morning. It’s here, on the opening weekend of the firearms hunting season, where hunters brought in their deer to be sampled.

Hedges says the goal was to obtain high volume of samples in order to map the spread of this disease.

“This Bolivar station should get about a 1,000 sample come through in two days. So we will be extracting lymph nodes from their neck area, and then we can test for this brain disorder.”

While this disease impacts the brain, it can be detected in the lymph nodes of dead deer. The samples were to be sent it off for testing at Colorado State University. MDC says it would have the results in about six weeks, and will then map out the prevalence of this disease in the state.

Chronic Wasting Disease, says Hedges, is “a deer’s version of mad cow disease.” He says that the disease is mapped out, officials can try to minimize its spread.

“In other areas that have been found with Chronic Wasting Disease, we have employed some culling during late winter and early spring to try to reduce the deer herd numbers, so that may or may not be employed down in this part of Southwest Missouri if more positives are found.”

Last deer season, the Missouri Department of Conservation tested more than 25,600 deer for CWD, and a total of nine were found positive. Two of those deer were from St. Clair County.

Francis Skalicky, media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said last year’s positive cases prompted mandatory testing this season for every county within a 25 miles radius.

“It’s a good chance that we’ll find it in its early stages before its gotten established here, and we’ll be able to take actions so we can control the disease.”

At about eight o’clock Saturday morning the testing station welcomed its first hunter of the season. After the lymph nodes of this buck were extracted, the man drove away with his prize. However, it could be a while before he’s able to enjoy any venison.

“There has been no instance of Chronic Wasting Disease diagnosed in humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control have advised that humans not consume deer that have tested positive for CWD” says Skalicky.

Skalicky assures hunters though that after the test results are known the department will call the hunter if their deer tests positive for CWD.

While CWD is not prevalent in Missouri, Hedges said it is important to try to tackle this disease early. Although deer hunting and watching is a multi-billion dollar industry for the state, Hedges adds that it’s an important social and family tradition.

“This resource means a lot to Missouri, and we need to do the best we can to keep the herd healthy, active, and robust.”