With mounting concerns about disease, herd size, and regulation changes, hunters and other Missouri residents with an interest in white-tailed deer will have the opportunity to express their opinions on management of the state’s deer herd at regional meetings in June and July.
The Missouri Department of Conservation will hold open houses at 14 locations around the state to discuss white-tailed deer management with citizens. The meetings will not have formal presentations. Instead, they will use an open-house format where people can come and go any time between 3 and 8 p.m. They will be able to visit booths focusing on the history of deer management in Missouri, the state’s new deer management plan, possible regulation changes, hunter retention and recruitment, public comments received so far, and other issues related to deer management.
The open-house format lets attendees concentrate on their particular interests, asking questions and discussing their ideas one-on-one with biologists and other key staff. Conservation Department Deputy Director Tom Draper says the goal of the open houses is to provide information and get feedback.
“We need people to tell us what they want Missouri’s deer population to look like and what combination of hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods they want the Conservation Department to use to achieve their goals,” says Draper. “We will use what we hear this summer to help shape future deer regulation changes.” He noted that Missouri’s free-ranging white-tailed deer population supports 12,000 jobs and generates more than $1 billion in economic activity annually in the Show-Me State.
The closest meetings for readership will be in Kirksville on June 30 at the Kirksville High School Gymnasium, 1300 S. Cottage Grove; in Hannibal on July 7 at the Quality Inn, Atlantis Ballroom, 120 Lindsey Drive; and in Columbia on July 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Magnolia Room, 3300 Vandiver Drive.
One key topic of discussion likely will be infectious diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
“The Missouri Department of Conservation continues to work with hunters, landowners, businesses, other agencies, and partner organizations to identify and limit the spread of CWD in Missouri,” said MDC agent Gary Miller. “All deer hunters, landowners, businesses, and conservation organizations in Missouri must continue to do their parts in limiting the spread of CWD and other infectious diseases, including captive deer breeders and big-game hunting preserves. Be informed about and get involved in this serious issue.”
The Conservation Commission met June 5 and 6 at Conservation Department Headquarters in Jefferson City and approved new guidelines for CWD control.
The Conservation Commission received a report from Dr. John Fischer, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, Athens, and director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, regarding a national overview of chronic wasting disease (CWD) and deer health issues. The Commission also heard reports from Protection Division Chief Larry Yamnitz and Resource Science Division Chief Mike Hubbard regarding proposed regulation changes related to captive-deer facilities and received comments on the proposed regulation changes from numerous individuals representing several organizations and thousands of Missourians.
The Conservation Commission approved the Regulations Committee’s recommendations that will Require new applicants for Class I Wildlife Breeder Permits to hold white-tailed deer, white-tailed deer-hybrids, mule deer, or mule deer-hybrids (deer), to pass a written examination provided by the Department and have an on-site inspection prior to and after construction of the breeding facility as part of the application process. New facilities will be required to have double fencing and importation of live white-tailed deer, mule deer, or their hybrids into the state will be prohibited.
Game farms will be required to test all mortalities of deer that are older than six months for CWD and the new rules establish a requirement for Class I and Class II wildlife breeders that hold deer to conduct an annual herd inventory in the presence of an accredited veterinarian during the annual inventory, the signature of an attending accredited veterinarian on herd records, individual animal identification, and individual animal documentation including results of CWD testing.
In approving the changes, the Commission emphasized the importance of an informed, involved public to ensure the health of Missouri’s deer herd now and in the future. Details of the proposed regulation changes will be published in the Missouri Register. A presentation regarding captive-deer regulation changes is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/28400. The Conservation Department encourages Missourians to review this presentation and comment on the changes. Comments can be submitted online at mdc.mo.gov/deerhealth or on comment cards available at Conservation Department regional offices and nature centers.
Chronic Wasting Disease Kills Deer
CWD is a disease that infects deer and other members of the deer family, called cervids. CWD is spread both directly from deer to deer and indirectly to deer from infected soil and other surfaces. The disease currently has no vaccine or cure, and is believed to be 100% fatal.
There is no scientific evidence that white-tailed deer have a genetic immunity to CWD that could be passed on to future generations. Deer and other cervids can have CWD for several years without showing any symptoms. Once symptoms are visible, infected animals typically die within one or two months.
CWD has been found in 23 states, including Missouri, and several Canadian provinces. Once well established in an area, CWD appears impossible to eradicate. States with CWD must focus on limiting the spread of the disease and preventing its introduction to new areas.
Don’t Confuse CWD with Hemorrhagic Disease (HD)
A disease often mistaken for CWD by the public is Hemorrhagic Disease. This includes both the bluetongue virus and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus. During the summer and fall of 2012, severe drought conditions contributed to a significant increase in cases of HD throughout Missouri. MDC received significantly fewer reports of deer mortalities in 2013 than in 2012.
The naturally occurring viruses are spread by a small, biting midge fly during the summer and fall. Disease outbreaks end when cold weather kills the host flies. Deer typically show symptoms within days of being infected, but not all infected deer die from HD. There is no way to manage or prevent HD. Historically, outbreaks occur during drought years. Deer herds have always recovered from the outbreaks.
CWD is in Missouri
Missouri’s first cases of CWD were detected in 2010 and 2011 in captive deer at private hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. A total of 11 cases of CWD have been confirmed in captive deer at the facilities. CWD has since been found in 10 free-ranging deer within two miles of the captive facility in Macon County. CWD in Missouri has not been detected outside of a small area that borders northeastern Linn and northwestern Macon counties.
CWD is a Serious Problem for All Missourians
Missouri offers some of the best deer hunting in the country, and deer hunting is an important part of many Missourians’ lives and family traditions.
Infectious diseases such as CWD hurt hunting and wildlife watching for Missouri’s more than 520,000 deer hunters and more than two million wildlife watchers.