This past weekend we went to a ranch in Northern Illinois to do some deer hunting. My friend and hunting companion Mike told us about a big buck he had recently harvest, it had Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Chronic Wasting Disease is the degeneration of the brain in deer and elk and an issue that all hunters today should be aware of. CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSE’s. The disease was first discovered in deer located in the northeast portion of Colorado in 1967. Since its’ discovery, CWD has been found in both wild and captive deer within small areas of Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Wisconsin; to date, CWD has not been found in Missouri.
The Missouri Department of Conservation tested over 6,000 deer in over 30 counties throughout the State and all the tests were negative. Soon they will test in an additional 54 counties to ensure Missouri’s wild life is disease free. Scientist, as of yet, are not quite certain how CWD spreads from deer to deer, but they suspect, at best it is through animal to animal contact of food and water sources. CWD is not a human health disease and it does not spread to cattle or sheep, only mule deer, white tail deer and elk. The World Health Organization, US Centers for Diseases, The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the National Institute for Health have found no link between CWD and similar human diseases.
The Departments of Conservation and Agriculture both have teamed up and are working hard to keep deer and elk in Missouri safe from CWD. Hunter volunteers also get involved by watching and reporting sick deer. In 2002 the State of Missouri formed a statewide task force dedicated to managing the risk of CWD. The deer or elk afflicted with CWD will display symptoms contrary to their natural behavior; they will show extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling and tremors. It is important to note however, CWD can only be diagnosed by a lab examination of the animals’ brain or lymph tissue.
More Hunters can help by just becoming aware of this disease. If you should harvest a deer and after close inspection suspect it is unhealthy deer, take the animal to the check station and have the checker make a report to the Missouri Department of Conservation. If the deer is unfit you can be issued a replacement permit.
If you do hunt in areas where there is CWD, process your deer there and only bring the boned meat into Missouri, because the bone is where the disease lies. Remember Missouri doesn’t have any reported CWD areas, so don’t bring potentially sick deer catches into Missouri. If you are taking your deer to a taxidermist, let them know if you harvested the deer from a CWD area so they know what proper steps to take. Awareness is a major factor here in dealing with CWD, so be safe and happy hunting. November 10, 2004,