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June 16, 2014

Missouri Department of Conservation moves to protect deer from chronic wasting disease


By Wally Kennedy
[email protected]



In a move to protect the state’s white-tailed deer population from chronic wasting disease, the Missouri Conservation Commission has approved proposed amendments to regulations regarding the operation of hunting preserves and wildlife breeding operations that hold white-tailed deer and other cervids, or horned animals.

The changes would become part of the agency’s strategy to minimize the impact of CWD, which is fatal.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is planning 14 public meetings in an open house format in all regions of the state to inform residents of the deer-management efforts and gather feedback.

A meeting is slated from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Cornell Auditorium in Plaster Hall at Missouri Southern State University, 3950 E. Newman Road.

In addition to disease-management efforts, participants will learn more about proposed changes related to archery hunting and the use of crossbows, timing of seasons, and harvest limits for bucks and does.

Actions recommended by the commission include:

• Banning the importation of live white-tailed deer, mule deer and their hybrids from other states.

• Improving fencing requirements for captive-cervid operations.

• Requiring all deer 6 months or older that die in a Conservation Department-licensed area to be tested for CWD.

• Establishing better record-keeping requirements for Conservation Department-licensed captive-cervid operations.

• Prohibiting any new captive-cervid operations within 25 miles of where CWD has been confirmed.

The proposed amendments will be published in the Missouri Register. There will be a 30-day public comment period beginning July 16. Comments on the proposed rule changes will be forwarded to the Conservation Commission for its consideration. Those comments will be reviewed before deciding whether the rules will be adopted, amended or withdrawn.

To comment, go to www.mdc.mo.gov/deerhealth.

The proposed amendments are designed to reduce the risk of the fatal disease from spreading beyond the limited area where it has been found, while minimizing the economic impact on the captive-cervid industry, and the communities and businesses that benefit from deer hunting and deer-related activities.

Kelly Straka, MDC’s first state wildlife veterinarian, said CWD has never appeared outside of Macon County in a free-ranging animal.

“We’ve had one case in Linn County and 10 cases in Macon County in captive herds,’’ she said. “We know it’s in the environment. Keeping it from spreading outside of that area is the goal.’’

Straka said active research is under way to learn more about the prion-based disease, but little new information has been uncovered.

“We tested 3,600 free-ranging deer last year and found no positives,’’ she said. “We have cautious optimism that we can contain this disease.’’



Numbers

More than 500,000 residents hunt deer, consuming millions of pounds of venison annually. The spread of CWD could negatively impact deer-dependent businesses that support more than 12,000 Missouri jobs and generate more than $1 billion in economic activity annually, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
 
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