Deer hunters in several Southwest Missouri counties will see some changes this fall.

Because of COVID-19, the Missouri Department of Conservation has changed its mandatory sampling requirements for chronic wasting disease to voluntary sampling in 30 counties during opening weekend of the modern firearms portion of deer season, Nov. 14-15.

Those counties include Barry, Christian, Stone and Taney.

The change also affects hunters in 26 other counties: Adair, Cedar, Chariton, Clark, Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Hickory, Howell, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Macon, Mercer, Oregon, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Putnam, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Sullivan, Warren, and Washington.

MDC said 71 CWD sampling stations located throughout those counties will remain open this fall.

“CWD represents a great threat to the health of Missouri’s deer and elk herds and to our hunting culture,” CWD mandatory sampling coordinator Kevyn Wiskirchen said in a statement. “Sampling deer for CWD allows early detection of the disease and allows for rapid management intervention to slow its spread. Hunters play a critical role in helping MDC find and manage CWD by having their deer sampled.”

Social distancing will be practiced by MDC staff at all stations. Staff will wear gloves and face masks at all times. Hunters and those with them will be asked to remain in their vehicles while their deer is being sampled. Hunters will only be asked to provide county of harvest and will not be asked to identify harvest location on a map.

As of June 30, there have been 162 cases of CWD in Missouri, including three in Stone and four in Taney counties but none in Barry, Christian or other Southwest Missouri counties. Barry and Christian are included on the list because of their proximity to Stone and Taney counties.

Arkansas has reported 849 cases of CWD in deer and elk since the first case there confirmed in 2016. Most of that is in Northwest Arkansas, including five cases in Benton County, 101 cases in Carroll County and 125 cases in Boone County.

According to Missouri and Arkansas officials, there have been no reported cases of CWD infecting people, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends having deer tested for CWD if harvested in an area known to have the disease. The CDC also recommends not eating meat from animals that test positive for CWD.

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