As has been the case for more than a decade, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s ongoing search for chronic wasting disease (CWD) is in the news as hunters prepare for opening weekend of the November firearms deer season.

Missouri’s largest hunting event — November firearms deer season — starts Saturday and runs through Nov. 22, 2016.

Related: Tennessee hunter bags state, possible world-record, deer

Hunters are reminded there are mandatory procedures they need to follow if they harvest a deer on the season’s opening weekend in any of the 29 counties that comprise the Missouri Department of Conservation’s CWD Management Zone.

These counties are: Adair, Boone, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Putnam, Randolph, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Louis, Sullivan, Warren and Washington.

Before we get to the procedures, here’s more about the problem.

CWD is a disease that infects deer and other members of the family Cervidae. It is a neurological disease that can be passed from one deer to another. CWD is in the TSE — transmissible spongiform encephalopathy — category of diseases. TSE diseases are progressive diseases affecting the brain and nervous system and are not caused by a bacteria or virus. Therein lies part of the reason why these diseases are difficult to eliminate once they become established.

TSE diseases are caused by prions — which are, basically, deformed proteins. Prions can be passed from one deer to another and are incredibly resistant to external environmental conditions. Because of the hardiness of prions, CWD, at present, is 100 percent fatal to cervids — which is the only group of animals it’s known to affect.

To date, 33 cases of CWD have been confirmed in Missouri. These positive tests came from samples collected in counties in northeast, central and eastern Missouri — all of which are in the current CWD Management Zone. CWD has the potential to reduce deer numbers and the quality of deer hunting in Missouri. If the disease becomes established here, it could have serious recreational and economic impacts for the state.

Because of the negative ramifications this disease could have on our state, statewide vigilance for the disease remains high. Since 2002, more than 51,000 deer have been tested from all areas of the state.

Symptoms of CWD include excessive salivation, drooping head, tremors, emaciation and lack of coordination. However, it can take months (and sometimes more than a year) for a deer infected with CWD to show any symptoms. Thus, an infected deer can spread the disease to other deer and contaminate the environment while appearing healthy.

Thus, early detection is beneficial, and that’s why mandatory procedures have been established in the 29-county CWD Management Zone. If you harvest a deer in those counties on Nov. 12 or 13, hunters must take their deer (or the head with at least six inches of neck in place) on the day of harvest to a designated CWD sampling station.

A list of sampling stations can be found at or in the “2016 Fall Deer and Turkey” regulations book which can be found at the bottom of this story, or a free publication is available at all MDC offices and all locations that sell hunting permits.

When presenting their deer, hunters need to know the county where the deer was harvested and provide additional information that can help the tester record the location of the harvest (township, range, section).

While testing is mandatory during firearms opening weekend, MDC staff will be available to remove tissue samples from deer harvested in the CWD Management Zone throughout the season. Hunters can contact their regional Conservation Department office for voluntary testing information: Central Regional Office in Columbia at 573-815-7900, Northeast Regional Office in Kirksville at 660-785-2420, and St. Louis Regional Office in St. Charles at 636-441-4554.


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 their harvest location on a map,
  • Positioning their deer in the vehicle so the head and neck are easily accessible for staff to take tissue samples,
  • Having the detached head with about 6 inches of neck attached bagged and ready.

Hunters are asked not to move deer carcasses, particularly if deer are harvested in the CWD Management Zone. Hunters can also decrease the risk of spreading CWD by moving only these deer parts:

  • Meat that has been cut and wrapped
  • Meat that has been boned out
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spine or head attached
  • Hides or capes from which all excess tissue has been removed
  • Antlers, including antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue.

Voluntary sampling of deer harvested outside the management zone continues throughout the remaining firearms and archery seasons.

In southwest Missouri, the emphasis on sample collection is on deer harvested in Barry, Christian, Douglas, McDonald, Ozark, Stone and Taney counties. The collection of samples in these counties, as is the case with other deer harvested outside the CWD Management Zone, is voluntary, but appreciated. People can contact the MDC Southwest Regional Office in Springfield, 417-895-6880, during regular business hours for a list of sample collection sites in those counties. Hunters and non-hunters alike are also urged to report sick deer to their nearest MDC office or to their county conservation agent.

READ: 2016 Fall deer and Turkey Hunting regulations and information