deer feeding ban

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COLUMBIA - A deadly deer disease is spreading through mid-Missouri, and the state is asking for your help to contain it.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is banning deer feeding in 41 counties, including Benton, Hickory and several surrounding counties. Anyone found in violation of the ban will be charged with a class-A misdemeanor.

Tom Strother is the Protection Regional Supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. He said deer feeding restrictions were already instituted in 25 counties (including Boone, Callaway, etc.), but the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) has caused the department to expand restrictions even further.

“It’s designed to help not spread chronic wasting disease,” Stroher said. “Once a deer gets this disease, it’s always fatal.”

(Map image courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation)

"The gray shaded counties are all the ones that are the no-feeding ban - don’t place any corn, feed, that sort of thing," Stroher said. "The brown-shaded counties are where it’s mandatory for hunters on the opening weekend of the deer season to bring their deer to sampling station. So, the brown shaded counties are where they are required to bring in their deer to us to be sampled.”

Stroher said CWD is a neurological disease that is mostly a mystery. He said there is very little known about CWD, so the current strategy of the department is to contain it and collect deer samples.

“Right now, there’s a lot of unknown to it,” Stroher said. “The strategy right now is to help contain it and keep it from spreading around the rest of Missouri. We know where it’s been located now and where it’s been detected ins several counties, so the idea is to help contain it in those counties from spreading across the landscape.” 

Stroher said current research suggests the spread of CWD is linked to deers coming in contact with each other.

"There’s different ways that CWD spreads from one deer to the next,” Stroher said. “We think one possible way is at feeding stations. There may be nose-to-nose contact between deer, which may be a vector for this disease to go from one deer to the next. The idea is to not have that situation in the woods, where the deer are nose-to-nose with each other.”

Stroher said there is no research that shows people can get sick from eating a sick deer.

"We haven’t found any link between people getting chronic wasting disease from a deer that has chronic wasting disease,” Stroher said. "So far, there’s no link between the two.”

Stroher also said CWD is similar to other neurological diseases that have infected animals in the past.

"It’s a neurological disease that basically starts forming holes in the brain of the animal that’s affected,” Stroher said. "Chronic wasting disease is very similar to the mad cow disease that’s found in cows.”

Stroher said CWD is a concern among the hunters he has spoken with. He also said working with the community will be the key to eradicating the disease.

"With CWD, it’s a big topic among hunters and the department,” Stroher said. "It’s probably one of our biggest 'hot rocks' of the time. We want to work hand-in-hand with land owners and hunters, and they’ve been very supportive. It’s good teamwork, and what we’re after is one thing: a healthy deer herd."

More information on the ban and mandatory sampling is available on the state department’s website.