COLUMBIA - With firearms deer season opening Saturday, thousands of hunters across the state will be taking to the woods during the next ten days. Missourians usually will harvest around 300,000 deer every fall with the majority coming during the ten day rifle season.
But several diseases have affected Missouri's deer herd this year. The Conservation Department launched a campaign earlier this year to raise awareness about the outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD in north central Missouri. The department also changed regulations and rules in the six-county containment zone that consists of Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties.
Diseases that could have broader-reaching affects outside the six-county CWD containment zone are HDs or Hemorrhagic Diseases. Hemorrhagic Diseases include two similar types of disease found in deer: blue tongue disease and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). Hemorrhagic diseases are more common in years of drought.
"We have loss of deer annually to EHD and normally it just isn't a significant number, but this year on the small end the [conservation] department has put out that we've lost about 20% of our deer herd," said Dan Vogt, Missouri Field Director for Whitetails Unlimited. "Some people I've talked to feel like its closer to 40%"
Through Nov. 7, the Missouri Department of Conservation reports 6,119 suspected cases of Hemorrhagic Diseases this year. Boone County reports 178 cases, Callaway County reports 126, Randolph County reports 158, Cooper County reports 98, and Howard County reports 40 cases. Vogt said if the estimates are correct it could have detrimental affects to the state's deer population.
"Let's say on average it's 30%. With a million deer population that's 300,000 deer we've lost in the state just this summer," said Vogt. "That's how many deer we kill on an annual basis in the state of Missouri."
Vogt said hunters should be aware that there might not be as many deer on their farms this season.
"I'm just coming to the state as a concerned whitetail hunter. Know your property before you go out. Know if you pull the trigger on the first two deer you see, it might be the last two deer you have walking on your property," said Vogt.
Hemorrhagic Diseases are usually spread through a small midge fly and symptoms include: swollen neck, tongue or eyelids, excessive salivation, deformed hooves and emaciation. They are unrelated to chronic wasting disease, and neither HDs nor CWD pose health risks to humans. However, if you see a deer that is visibly sick contact the Conservation Department.