Chronic Wasting Disease in Missouri

The Missouri Department of Conservation is proposing new regulations starting in 2020 to help limit the spread of CWD by restricting the transportation of harvested deer carcasses.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is increasing its efforts to slow the spread of the deadly deer disease called chronic wasting disease (CWD) throughout Missouri by proposing new regulations that would change requirements for transporting deer carcasses and add carcass-disposal requirements for meat processors and taxidermists. 

CWD is a deadly disease in white-tailed deer and other members of the deer family. The disease has no vaccine or cure and eventually kills all deer it infects. The infectious mis-formed proteins that cause CWD are most concentrated in the spines and heads of deer. Moving potentially infected deer carcasses out of the immediate areas where they were harvested, or improperly disposing of carcasses can spread the disease.

Some of the proposed regulations are similar to longstanding rules that already place restrictions on the transport of deer carcasses into Missouri. 

The state created a CWD Management Zone around where confirmed cases of the disease have been found to help track and limit the spread of CWD. Five counties to the south of Christian County, including Stone and Taney counties, fall into the management zone.

If approved, the regulations would become effective Feb. 29, 2020.

The proposed regulations would:

-Restrict transportation of whole deer carcasses into the state;

-Allow for the importation of deer heads with capes attached into Missouri if they are taken to a licensed taxidermist;

-Within the CWD Management Zone, limit the transportation of whole deer carcasses out of the county of harvest, except for whole carcasses being transported to a permitted taxidermist or meat processor within 48 hours;

-Within the CWD Management Zone, allow the transportation of “low-risk” carcass parts out of the county of harvest, which includes meat that is cut and wrapped or boned out, quarters without the spinal column attached, antlers, and finished taxidermy products;

-Require meat processors and taxidermists to discard deer carcass remains in a properly permitted landfill or waste transfer station; and

-Require that meat processors and taxidermists keep records of deer carcass disposal.

“Most states with CWD have similar restrictions on carcass movement and MDC is proposing reasonable regulation changes to further reduce the risks of spreading CWD to new areas,” said MDC Resource Science Division Chief and Deer Biologist Jason Sumners. “CWD remains a rare disease in our state and we want to keep it that way.”

Research shows that infected deer carcasses left on the landscape can spread CWD to other deer that come in contact with the carcasses. Therefore, moving potentially infected carcasses to new areas and improperly disposing of them can spread CWD within Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has tested more than 130,000 deer for the disease since the first cases were detected in 2010 and 2011 in two northeast Missouri counties. Most of those deer tested were harvested by hunters. Since then, the number of CWD detections has increased to 116 and the disease has been found in 16 counties throughout the state – often many miles from any other known cases.

“Our research shows it is highly unlikely that the spread of CWD to some new areas of the state is from the natural movement of deer,” Sumners said. “We have found some new cases of CWD more than 60 miles from any other known cases. While we do not know specifically how they got there, we do know that deer rarely travel that far on their own. That leaves people as the most likely way the disease is spreading that far.”

According to MDC, most deer hunters would not be affected by the proposed regulations and most meat processors and taxidermists are already disposing of deer carcasses according to the proposed regulations.

“Our deer-hunter surveys and other research shows that more than 85 percent of deer hunters would not be affected by the new regulations because they already dispose of carcasses on or near the property where the deer was harvested, or already take their harvested deer to licensed meat processors and taxidermists,” Sumners said. “The rest dispose of the carcasses on other properties in other counties or in other ways. That small percentage can have a big impact on spreading the disease.”

MDC held public meetings around the state in the fall of 2018 to gather initial feedback on the proposed regulations and, according to Sumners, a “vast majority” of attendees felt they were reasonable.

The proposed regulation changes were given initial approval by the Missouri Conservation Commission at its May 23 meeting.

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