The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will hold an informational open house on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Macon County on June 2 at New Cambria High School, 501 S. Main St. The public is invited to stop by 1-4 p.m.
MDC staff will provide information on five recently found cases of CWD in free-ranging deer in northwest Macon County, explain disease management actions the Department is taking, answer questions and provide information on managing private land for deer.
MDC's disease-management steps to help contain the spread of CWD include two regulation changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, recommendations on transportation and disposal of deer carcasses and continuing CWD sampling of deer harvested in the area where CWD has been found.
Restriction on Feeding
The Conservation Commission approved a regulation change at its May 25 meeting that places a restriction on activities that are likely to unnaturally concentrate white-tailed deer and promote the spread of CWD. The ban on the placement of grain, salt products, minerals and other consumable natural or manufactured products is limited to the area where CWD has been found in Macon County and is comprised of Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties.
The regulation includes exceptions for backyard feeding of birds and other wildlife within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building, or if feed is placed in such a manner to reasonably exclude access by deer. The regulation also includes exceptions for normal agricultural, forest management, crop and wildlife food production practices.
According to MDC Deer Biologist Jason Sumners, the reason for the regulation change is that activities such as feeding and placement of minerals/salts that artificially concentrate deer greatly increase the likelihood of disease transmission from animal to animal or from soil to animal.
Removal of Antler-Point Restriction
The Conservation Commission also approved a regulation change at its May 25 meeting for a special harvest provision that rescinds the antler-point restriction (four-point rule) in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties.
According to Sumners, the reason for the regulation change is that management strategies such as antler-point restrictions, which protect yearling males and promote older bucks, have been found to increase prevalence rates and further spread the disease.
Sumners explained that yearling and adult male deer have been found to exhibit CWD at much higher rates than yearling and adult females so a reduction in the number of male deer can help reduce the spread of CWD. He added that the movement of young male deer from their birth range in search of territory and mates is also a way of expanding the distribution of CWD.
Don't Remove Carcasses from Area
MDC also encourages hunters who harvest deer in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph, and Sullivan counties not to take whole deer carcasses or carcass parts out of the area where CWD has been found. Exceptions to this include meat that is cut and wrapped, meat that has been boned out, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, hides or capes from which all excess tissue has been removed, antlers, antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue, upper canine teeth and finished taxidermy products.
According to Sumners, the reason for this regulation change is that CWD can be transmitted from the environment to deer through soil and water that contain infected waste and/or infected carcasses. Deer can be infected with CWD but have no visible signs or symptoms. Moving harvested deer that still have parts known to concentrate CWD (brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, and lymph nodes) from the area known to have CWD can introduce the disease to other parts of the state through the improper disposal of carcasses.
He explained that hunters should make every attempt to avoid moving the head and spinal cord from the area and properly dispose of potentially infected deer carcasses, including bones and trimmings, to minimize the risk of exposure to uninfected deer. MDC advises hunters to double-bag carcass parts and take them directly to a landfill, or place them in trash cans for pick-up. Burying carcass waste deep enough to prevent scavengers from digging it up is another acceptable option. As a last resort, and only on their own land, hunters can put carcass waste back on the landscape. Carcasses should be put as close as possible to where the deer was harvested so as to not spread CWD-causing prions to new locations. If possible, put the carcass in a location where it will be inaccessible to scavengers and other deer.
Fall Harvest CWD Sampling
Sumners added that MDC will also continue to work with hunters who harvest deer this fall in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties to collect samples for CWD testing. Details on these efforts are being developed and will be shared before the 2012 fall deer hunting season.
For more information on the open house, contact MDC Public Involvement Coordinator Michele Baumer at 573-522-4115, ext. 3350, or Michele.Baumer@mdc.mo.gov.