Starting next month, the Missouri Department of Conservation will be shrinking their Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) management zones. Conservation Nature Center Assistant Manager Jamie Koehler says this is not the result of a reduction in cases of the deadly deer disease, but a reduction in travel distances among the woodland species.
“When we first started trying to manage CWD, we had a 25-mile radius around positive cases. The research since then has told us that the animals don’t travel as far as we thought, so we’ve reduced that down to a 10-mile radius,” says Koehler.
This new information has led to the removal of Bollinger and Cape Girardeau counties, among others, from the list of management zones. In counties such as these where management zones have been lifted, so has the ban on feeding deer.
Still, Koehler urges people to avoid feeding bears and deer in residential areas, as it takes awhile for CWD symptoms to appear.
“18 months is typically the length of time before the animal starts to experience symptoms,” says Koehler. “So that’s why it’s a little bit more difficult for us to manage.”
The neurological disorder, she says, results from the accumulation of prions in the brain and spinal fluid of the animal. It usually ends in lethargy and a lack of consumption.
“They lose their drive to feed - drive for water - eventually even their drive to move around,” she says.
The total number of counties under watch will shrink from 48 to 29.
When deer season arrives later this year, hunters in Ste. Genieve, Perry, and St. Francois counties will still be required to take their buck or doe to an MDC testing site in their area, as those counties are not yet outside management zones. The testing results are returned within a few weeks, at which point hunters will be notified.
In areas still being monitored for the contagion, the department also prohibits the use of mineral and grain feeders, as they “unnaturally concentrate the animals,” and can further spread CWD.
For more information on CWD, contact the Southeast Regional Conservation office by visiting https://mdc.mo.gov/mdc-offices/southeast-regional-office.