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Because of CWD, deer surveillance gets priority in Ozarks

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Arkansas findings prompt additional sample collecting efforts in Missouri.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –The discovery of a deer disease in Arkansas has increased surveillance efforts by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff in the southern part of the state.

This spring’s finding of 86 cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in northern Arkansas (82 in deer, four in elk) has caused MDC staff to ramp up sample collection for a CWD testing process that has been ongoing in Missouri since 2002. CWD is a disease that is spread from deer to deer and is fatal to all deer it infects. This neurological disease infects only deer and other members of the cervid family by causing degeneration of brain tissue.

A white-tailed doe in the Ozarks. The Missouri Department of Conservation is increasing surveillance of the Ozarks deer population after cases increase in Northern Arkansas.

A white-tailed doe in the Ozarks. The Missouri Department of Conservation is increasing surveillance of the Ozarks deer population after cases increased in Northern Arkansas.

As has been MDC’s procedure since Missouri’s first positive CWD case was confirmed in 2010, the agency has increased sample collecting and surveillance around areas where the disease has been found. A focus area of 50 miles from Arkansas’ CWD positive tests has been established. This consists of the Missouri counties of Barry, Christian, Douglas, Ozark, Stone and Taney. Since mid-spring, MDC staff has increased efforts in these counties to collect samples from sick and road-killed deer to test for CWD.

It’s important to note that, though the current effort represents sample collecting of a greater magnitude in southern Missouri, this isn’t the first time samples have been collected in this part of the state. Since 2002, MDC has conducted statewide vigilance for the disease in accordance with its CWD surveillance and management plan. In addition to this watchfulness across the state, MDC has periodically intensified sample collection in some parts of Missouri, either on a rotational basis to make sure all parts of the state are being tested or because the detection of a positive case has warranted increased focus on a particular area.

MDC’s current statewide surveillance (“statewide” being defined as meaning outside of counties that have already been established as CWD Management Zone focus counties) concentrates on one-half of the state each year. For the 2015-2016 deer hunting seasons, MDC’s focus was on southern Missouri. Most of these samples came from hunter-harvested deer and were collected by cooperating taxidermists.

To date, more than 51,000 deer have been tested for CWD in Missouri. A total of 27 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the state. These have been found in the northeast, central and east-central portions of the state. At present, no animals collected from southern Missouri have tested positive for CWD.

MDC is maintaining close contact with Arkansas Game and Fish personnel to monitor findings and collaboratively interpret what this means for our state.

As always, MDC appreciates assistance from the public. Anyone who sees a deer portraying signs of illness or abnormal behavior is encouraged to call their local MDC office or contact the county’s conservation agent. The more details callers can provide (gender of animal, location, etc.), the better the deer can be located and the situation assessed.

More information can be obtained by calling MDC’s Southwest Regional Office in Springfield, (417) 895-6880 or MDC’s Ozark Regional Office in West Plains, (417) 256-7161. Information on CWD can also be found at mdc.mo.gov.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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