COLUMBIA — Missouri hunters traveling to other states face new rules about bringing deer, elk or moose back home.
The new Missouri Department of Conservation regulation requires hunters who bring any out-of-state deer, elk or moose into Missouri with the head or spinal column attached to report the animal within 24 hours of entering the state, according to a department release. The rule does not apply to hunters returning with just the meat, antlers, hides, teeth, skulls or skull plates devoid of brain tissue.
The regulation, which took effect earlier this year, is a direct response to Missouri’s first documented case of chronic wasting disease, which was discovered by the department in a white-tailed deer in February at a wildlife ranch in Linn County, according to the release.
Chronic wasting disease affects the brains of deer, elk and moose, causing severe weight loss, stumbling and tremors. It can take months or even years for symptoms to develop, which is one reason the disease can be so difficult to track.
Hunters are required to call the department at 887-853-5665 within 24 hours of entering the state. Hunters must then take the carcasses to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry. The processors and taxidermists are responsible for disposing of the leftover meat in a permitted landfill.
The department regularly tests for chronic wasting disease in the wild deer population through a voluntary surveillance effort. Before the Linn County discovery, conservation employees had tested more than 24,000 deer between 2002 and 2009, all with negative results, according to the department website.
During the upcoming firearms season, the department will continue voluntary testing in Chariton, Linn and Macon counties and parts of Adair, Randolph and Sullivan counties.
Farmed deer, elk and moose aren't classified as "wildlife," however, and are not tested by the department. Instead, the Missouri Department of Agriculture is responsible for testing and monitoring those animals.
According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, as of March the disease has been found in three states bordering Missouri: Kansas, Illinois and Nebraska.
Deer hunting in Missouri draws nearly 500,000 hunters and generates more than $750 million, according to Jim Low, a Missouri Conservation Department spokesman. That estimate jumps to more than $1 billion annually in overall business activity related to deer hunting.