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Missouri conservation officials monitor deer hunting harvest for chronic wasting disease

Conservation officials say the majority of Missouri deer are healthy.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Mo. — This was the first weekend of firearms deer hunting season in Missouri. Missouri Conservation Department officials say despite an overwhelmingly healthy deer population, chronic wasting disease has been present in Missouri for about 10 years.

Conservation officials say Franklin County is usually one of the top deer harvesting counties in the state. 5 On Your Side found hunters Sunday morning at a deer sampling station along I-44 in Gray Summit.

Andrew Katzung said deer were on the move.

“They definitely were, this morning,” said Katzung. “It was raining pretty good when I got out there.”

Hunters showed off their take from the first weekend.

“Deer are on the move,” said Josh Redhage. “They’re starting to push does now, I do believe. The rut’s kicking in.”

The rut is the deer’s mating season.

At the conservation department's deer sampling station, officials cut out the animals’ lymph nodes to test for chronic wasting disease.

“The CDC recommends not eating a deer if it’s tested positive for CWD," said Dan Zarlenga, the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "This whole process also helps us with the data, to help track where the disease is occurring and how prevalent it might be.”

That’s what the conservation department’s map-plotting operation is all about. Conservation officials make note of the areas where deer were harvested, in case there are concentrations of CWD.

Hunters and Conservation officials were gathered under a tent around a table covered with maps.

“Township, section and range maps help us try to pinpoint exactly where hunters harvest their deer," Zarlenga said. "That way we have a pretty close location indicating where that deer was taken, and that really does help us narrow down if there are cases of CWD that we discover.”

Owen Willtrout got a 6-point buck.

“Yes, sir,” said Willtrout, “on the second day. Starting off pretty good.”

Each deer tested is assigned a number, so hunters can check a conservation website in a couple weeks to make sure their deer is free of chronic wasting disease. Conservation officials notify by telephone the hunters whose deer test positive.

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