Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal, neurological disease that affects members of the deer family (called cervids), such as white-tailed deer and elk in Missouri. CWD is caused by an abnormal protein, called a prion. The disease causes a degeneration of brain tissue, which slowly leads to death. CWD has no vaccine or cure and is 100-percent fatal. There is no evidence that humans can be infected with CWD. Research is ongoing to determine any public health impacts of the disease.
Deer infected with CWD do not always look sick. Symptoms include excessive salivation, drooping head/ears, tremors, emaciation, and change in behavior such as lack of fear of humans and lack of coordination. It can take months or years for a deer infected with CWD to show symptoms. The disease is spread from deer-to-deer and through contact by deer with contaminated soil, food, and water. Infected deer can spread the disease while appearing healthy.
CWD In Missouri
The Missouri Department of Conservation began monitoring the state’s free-ranging deer for Chronic Wasting Disease in 2001. Chronic Wasting Disease was first detected in captive deer in the state in 2010 and 2011 in Linn and Macon counties. The disease was first detected in free-ranging deer in Macon County in 2012. To date, the disease has been detected in Adair, Cole, Franklin, Linn and Macon counties.
Once established in a deer population, CWD is difficult -- if not impossible -- to remove. The Missouri Department of Conservation is working with hunters, landowners, and others to slow the spread of the disease and minimize impacts to the state’s deer herd.
Mandatory Sampling In CWD Management Zone
Hunters who harvest deer during the opening weekend of the fall firearms deer season (Nov. 12 and 13) in any of the 29 counties of the Department’s CWD Management Zone are required to present their deer for CWD sample collection on the day of harvest at one of 75 MDC CWD sampling locations. throughout the 29 counties. Hunters also have the option of presenting just the deer head with about six inches of neck attached. Deer must be presented by the hunter who harvested the animal. Sampling locations will be open from 7:30 a.m. through 8 p.m. Hunters can get free test results for their deer after samples are processed.
CWD sampling involves collecting tissue samples from the necks of harvested deer. It takes only a few minutes and consists of MDC staff cutting an incision across the throat of the harvested deer to remove lymph nodes for CWD testing.
Sampling Near Arkansas Border
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently found more than 100 cases of Chronic Wasting Disease in northwest Arkansas deer and elk. CWD has not been found in southern Missouri. In response, MDC is increasing its CWD surveillance and testing efforts in seven southwest Missouri counties: Barry, Christian, Douglas, McDonald, Ozark, Stone and Taney. MDC encourages hunters who harvest deer in these counties to have them tested for CWD. Learn more.
TIPS TO SAVE TIME
Hunters can help reduce their wait times at a CWD sampling location by:
- Telechecking their deer before going to a sampling location,
- Having their completed permit information ready,
- Being prepared to locate on a map where the deer was harvested,
- Positioning their deer in the vehicle so the head is easily accessible for staff to take tissue samples from the neck, or
- Having the detached head and neck bagged and ready.
Get more information