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CWD found in two Missouri free-ranging deer

From Missouri Department of Conservation

-- Two positive test results for Chronic Wasting Disease were found in the 1,077 tissue samples taken from free-ranging deer harvested by hunters in north central Missouri during the 2011 fall firearms deer season.

Both positive test results were from adult bucks harvested by Missouri hunters in Macon County, and are the first CWD-positive results for free-ranging deer in Missouri.

MDC plans to obtain more tissue samples for CWD testing by harvesting additional deer in the immediate area where the two infected deer were harvested.

"We will be working with local landowners to harvest additional deer for tissue sampling. This is a first step and one of our best hopes for containing, and perhaps even eliminating, what we believe to be a recent localized event," according to Jason Sumners, deer biologist.

Conservation Department staff members have contacted the two Missouri hunters who harvested the CWD-positive bucks to inform them of the situation and answer questions.

CWD is a neurological disease limited to deer, elk, moose and other cervids. It is spread by animal-to-animal contact or by animal contact with soil that contains prions from urine, feces or the decomposition of an infected animal.

Deer with CWD show changes in natural behavior and can exhibit extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling and tremors. CWD can spread through natural movements of infected animals, transportation of infected live captive animals, or the transportation of infected carcasses.

There is no evidence from existing research that CWD can spread to domestic livestock, or that it is transmissible to humans through contact with or the consumption of deer meat.

MDC conducted its tissue-sampling effort during the fall firearms season in November in response to two cases of CWD found in captive white-tailed deer at two private, captive-hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. A third captive deer at one of the preserves tested positive for CWD in December. The two earlier cases of CWD found at the private hunting preserves were detected in February 2010 and October 2011. The two free-ranging bucks that tested positive were harvested within two miles of the Macon County preserve.

CWD in deer can only be confirmed by laboratory testing of the brain stem or lymph tissue. Tissue samples collected by MDC were tested by the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Laboratory of the University of Georgia, Athens, with confirmation by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

While CWD is new to free-ranging deer in Missouri, MDC has been testing for it for years. With the help of hunters, MDC has tested more than 34,000 free-ranging deer for CWD from all parts of the state since 2002.

Missouri also has a Cervid Health Committee to address the threat of CWD to Missouri's free-ranging and captive cervids. The Committee is composed of wildlife biologists, veterinarians and other animal-health experts from MDC, MDA, MDHSS and the USDA.

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