COLUMBIA — Missouri’s first cases of chronic wasting disease in wild white-tailed deer have been identified in northwestern Macon County.
Two free-range adult bucks have tested positive for the disease. The bucks were slain by hunters within two miles of the Heartland Wildlife Ranch in Macon County, a private deer hunting preserve where the disease has been previously identified in captive deer.
“I can’t speculate to what the source of the free-range white-tailed deer infection is,” said Jason Sumners, a deer biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“We have reason to believe that it is a recent induction of the disease,” Sumners said.
The two infected bucks were identified from 1,007 tissue samples taken from deer harvested during the 2011 firearms season in north-central Missouri, Sumners said.
Since 2002, the conservation department has tested 30,000 deer statewide, he said.
The recent tissue sampling of white-tailed deer was prompted by the identification in October and December of two cases of the disease in captive deer near the area where the infected bucks were harvested, Sumners said.
The first Missouri case of the disease in captive deer was identified at the Heartland Wildlife Ranch deer preserve in Linn County in February 2010, Sumners said.
The disease is transmitted directly from infected animal to animal through urine, feces, saliva, nose-to-nose contact — “really any form of fluid secretion,” Sumners said. Deer can become indirectly infected from being in the general area of infected deer, he said.