Chronic-wasting disease may not be something we can eliminate in Missouri, but it is something hunters can help control.
That includes hunters in Southwest Missouri.
CWD is not unknown in the state — we’ve had 116 cases in the past decade. The Missouri Department of Conservation considers it “relatively rare,” but a challenge has erupted to our south.
Arkansas has found more than 600 cases in deer and elk since 2016, and about a quarter of those were found in four counties along the Missouri border — Carroll, Boone and, to a much lesser extent, Benton and Marion.
While the disease is not prevalent in Southwest Missouri — yet — last year, for the first time, it turned up in Stone and Taney counties, with one case each.
It’s likely just a matter of time before it shows up in neighboring counties in the region, including Barry County and possibly McDonald County.
There is a lot that is unknown about chronic-wasting disease, including its origins, but one thing that is a sure bet is that it is proving impossible to eradicate once it gets established, based on the experience of other states.
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do, including:
• Mandatory testing. Barry, Stone and Taney counties, for example, as well as other border counties farther east, are part of the state CWD Management Zone, meaning testing is required for all deer harvested this coming weekend, the opening of modern firearms season.
(A list of sampling stations and details for getting deer sampled can be found at online at https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/wildlife-diseases/chronic-wasting-disease-cwd/mandatory-cwd-sampling-2019.)
• Voluntary testing. Area hunters who take a deer elsewhere in the region this fall and winter can have them voluntarily tested.
• Follow state rules. MDC has restrictions on feeding deer and placing minerals for deer, on the removal of deer carcasses from counties in the CWD Management Zone, and more.
Get familiar with the rules, and report sick deer.
We urge hunters this season to take the disease seriously, and we appeal to them to cooperate with state officials to limit the spread of the disease.