John Winkelman

John Winkelman

While Jefferson County remains in a bull’s-eye location of one chronic wasting disease management zone for deer hunting, the number of Missouri counties under the special regulations to prevent spread of the disease has decreased.

Proposed changes for the 2020 season are expected to be approved at the state Conservation Commission meeting on Aug. 23. The management zone will be reduced from 48 to 29 of the state’s 114 counties, but new restrictions will be added on moving deer harvested inside the management zones.

More on that later, because changes for deer hunting seasons that begin in September will affect many hunters who pursue white-tailed deer in the counties that have been removed from the management zones.

Benton, Bollinger, Boone, Callaway, Cape Girardeau, Carroll, Cole, Cooper, Dade, Grundy, Livingston, Madison, McDonald, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Randolph, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby and St. Louis return to regulations they used before being included.

The state implemented the first CWD Management Zone in 2012 and included counties within 25 miles of where cases of the disease had been found. The radius was based on research from other states that deer may roam up to 25 miles from the area where they were born, especially young bucks in search of territory or mates.

More recent research by the Department of Conservation shows more than 90 percent of bucks in Missouri have a range of less than 10 miles. Based on that data, 22 counties have been removed from the management zones. In addition, Cole and Moniteau counties were removed because no cases of the disease have been found since a single case was confirmed in Cole County in 2015.

Antler-point restrictions return in most counties where they had been previously in force. Hunters in Benton, Boone, Callaway, Carroll, Cole, Cooper, Grundy, Livingston, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Randolph, Schuyler, Scotland and Shelby counties will once again be required to pass on young bucks with fewer than four antler points on one side.

The state added Christian, Howell and Oregon counties to the management zone along the Arkansas border after cases were found last season in Oregon, Stone and Taney counties.

Hunters in Jefferson and the 28 other counties inside the zone will be required to submit deer they harvest on opening weekend of the firearms season for chronic wasting disease testing.

The testing locations in Jefferson County on Nov. 16-17 include the Big River VFW in Cedar Hill, the state Transportation Department facility on Hwy. 110 in De Soto and the parking lot across from the Buchheit store in Herculaneum.

The changes for 2020 focus on moving and properly disposing of deer carcasses inside the management zones and restrictions for transporting deer carcasses into the state.

Beginning next year, hunters who harvest deer inside the zones must have it processed in that county or have the whole deer transported to a permitted taxidermist or meat processor within 72 hours. Processors and taxidermists must dispose of carcasses in permitted landfills or transfer stations and must keep records of all carcass disposals.

Hunters who do their own processing can transport meat cut from the bones and quarters that do not include any spinal column. The skeletal remains must be disposed of properly in the county of harvest. Infected carcasses left on the landscape can spread the disease to other deer.

“CWD remains a rare disease in our state and we want to keep it that way,” said Jason Sumners, the chief deer biologist for the state. “Our research shows it is highly unlikely that the spread of CWD to some new areas of the state is from the natural movement of deer. We have found some new cases of CWD more than 60 miles from any other known cases. While we do not know specifically how they got there, we do know that deer rarely travel that far on their own.”

The state has tested more than 130,000 deer for the disease since the first cases were detected in 2010 and 2011 in two northeast Missouri counties. Most of those deer tested were harvested by hunters. Since then, the number of CWD detections has increased to 116 and the disease has been found in 16 counties.

Single positive tests for the disease have been found in each of the past three years in Jefferson County. All those cases have been discovered in the south and central part of the county.

 John J. Winkelman is community engagement manager at Mercy Hospital Jefferson. If you have news for the Leader’s Outdoor News page, e-mail and you can follow John on Twitter at @johnjwink99.