Collected deer tissue samples show dozens of new chronic wasting disease cases, Missouri Dept. of Conservation says

Sara Karnes
Springfield News-Leader

Conservation officials collected thousands of tissue samples from hunter-harvested deer and found 44 new cases of chronic wasting disease.

Missouri Department of Conservation reported its findings through monitoring, management and testing for the 2020-2021 for the surveillance year of the disease, often referred to as CWD. 

CWD is a deadly disease in white-tailed deer and other members of the deer family. The purpose of MDC’s CWD sampling efforts is to find cases as early as possible so the department can limit the spread of the disease by implementing management actions such as targeted culling.

The 44 cases stemmed from 15,300 tissue samples collected from harvested deer, MDC stated in a news release. With these new findings, the total number of CWD cases in the state is 206.

More:Missouri's 2020 deer season is coming, with new rules for handling carcasses

The conservation department has tested more than 152,300 deer since the first cases of CWD were found in free-ranging deer in Missouri in 2012.

As far as the new cases, two were found in Putnam County and one in Pulaski County. Both counties didn't have previously known cases of CWD. 

Where were the new cases of CWD found?

The 44 new cases of CWD were found in the following counties:

  • Adair (2)
  • Franklin (5)
  • Jefferson (5)
  • Linn (6)
  • Macon (5)
  • Oregon (3)
  • Polk (1)
  • Pulaski (1)
  • Putnam (2)
  • St. Clair (1)
  • Ste. Genevieve (12)
  • Stone (1)

Several people spotted a sick deer in Ste. Genevieve County and notified MDC. The sick deer was humanely shot by MDC staff and a tissue sample was submitted for CWD testing. The disease was confirmed, and MDC staff properly disposed of the carcass.

It can take between 18 months to two years from the time a deer is infected with CWD to look visibly sick. The animals can still spread the disease before they look or act sick, MDC says.

Among the 44 new cases of Chronic Wasting Disease found in Missouri deer last season was this sick deer. MDC determined the deer showed signs of CWD infection and was euthanized by MDC staff. CWD testing confirmed the diagnosis.

Although most deer that test CWD-positive don't show signs, the deer that do may show symptoms like dramatic weight loss, abnormal behavior, and excessive thirst, drooling or urination.

The 15,300 tested this past season was a significantly smaller number due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jasmine Batten, MDC Wildlife Health Program Supervisor. 

“We tested about 16,000 fewer deer last season compared to the 2019-2020 testing period,” Batten said via news release.

The conservation department suspended mandatory sampling requirements during the opening weekend due to health and safety concerns.

"Thankfully, the hard work of taxidermists and meat processors who provided samples and the hunters who voluntarily had their deer sampled at a variety of locations allowed us to still adequately monitor and detect CWD throughout the state," Batten said.

MDC thanked the thousands of hunters who brought their harvested deer to MDC locations for CWD sampling and testing. The department was also grateful to the 150 and more partnering taxidermists and meat processors throughout the state who sampled more than 9,300 hunter-harvested deer this year for CWD testing.

MDC thanked the more than 1,500 landowners in areas where CWD has been found for voluntarily participating in post-deer season CWD management efforts. Landowners and MDC staff in these areas cooperatively harvested 2,713 deer after the close of the deer season, which removed an additional 18 CWD-positive deer.

Deer harvested during the post-deer season that did not test positive for CWD were returned to landowners or donated to local food pantries through the Share the Harvest venison-donation program. More than 80,000 pounds of venison were donated from this past season's efforts.

Post-deer season targeted culling efforts can help decrease CWD transmission by reducing the number of potentially infected deer within areas where the disease has been detected, according to MDC.

"Long-term, sustained, targeted culling has been shown to slow the spread of CWD, and MDC is committed to using this management tool to protect the state’s deer herd from the effects of CWD," the news release stated.

For more information on MDC’s 2020-2021 CWD surveillance results, visit mdc.mo.gov/cwd under CWD Surveillance.

Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at skarnes@springfi.gannett.com.