SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (KFVS) - Evidence of a deadly and contagious deer disease has been found in one part of the Heartland and if local hunters know where cases have been confirmed they can help prevent it from spreading.
The first known cases of Chronic Wasting Disease have been confirmed in Southeast Missouri and if a deer contracts it 's only a matter of time before it dies.
If the disease is allowed to spread Wildlife supervisor Matt Bowyer with the Southeast Region of the Missouri Department of Conservation said it can have detrimental effects to the local deer population and could even wipe it out completely over a period of time.
"The disease is very hard to contain," Bowyer said. "It's a huge concern for our deer herd, it's a huge concern for the hunting heritage that we have in our state, but it's a problem that is happening across the country. Everyone that manages whitetail is worried about what to do if they've got it, or what they'll do if they get it."
From samples that were taken during the first two days of the 2017 firearm deer hunting season, Bowyer said that two deer from Sainte Genevieve county have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.
He added that the department of conservation will be more proactive about testing deer in a 26 square miles area where the deer with CWD were found.
"We've drawn what we call a 'core area' around the two positives that we found in southern Ste. Genevieve county," Bowyer said. "Jefferson County and Ste. Gen County are already in our chronic wasting disease management zone. So we would take measures to increase the harvest of that area with additional permits that are offered to landowners and hunters in those counties."
Bowyer said they're urging hunters in those CWD management areas to stop attracting deer because it can lead to further transmission of the disease.
"We actually outlaw the use of salt licks or mineral blocks in those areas, and also feeding deer outside of the deer season," Bowyer said. "We don't allow that anymore because we don't want sites where the deer will actually be concentrated into a very small area. When one deer transfers saliva to another deer, an increase in affection rates can occur there."
Bowyer also recommends that hunter where CWD was found to process the meat where the deer was shot because a moving a contagious carcass to a new area can also help spread the deadly illness.
20,000 deer were sampled in Missouri last year and the two deer in Ste. Genevieve County are part of the 15 confirmed cases of CWD in the state, which Bowyer said is low percentage compared to the ratio in other states that have the disease like Arkansas and Wisconsin.
"We take a lot of samples relative to other states," Bowyer said. "They come from hunters, our mandatory check stations, and deer that are turned into taxidermists. You can't sample the venison. The deer's lymph node is the best way to get a sample."
Deer with Chronic Wasting Disease look very sick, thin and can salivate but Bowyer said it can take 18 months for those clinical signs to show up.
Those that want to report a deer that could CWD can call the department of conservation at 573-290-5730.