COLUMBIA — The two bucks infected with Missouri’s first cases of chronic wasting disease in the wild were killed near a private hunting preserve where the disease was previously found in captive white-tailed deer.
The two wild bucks were killed less than a mile apart in Macon County during the fall firearms season and within two miles of the Heartland Wildlife Ranch, said Jason Sumners, a deer biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
"I can't speculate to what the source of the free-range white-tailed deer infection is," Sumners said. "We have reason to believe that it is a recent induction of the disease."
The diseased bucks were identified from the 1,007 tissue samples taken from deer killed in the Macon and Linn counties during the 2011 firearms season. The tissue tests were prompted by the October and December discoveries of chronic wasting disease at the private fee-hunting area in Macon County. In both cases, one white-tailed deer was found to be infected.
The first case in captive white-tailed deer in Missouri was found in February 2010 at the Heartland Wildlife Ranch in adjacent Linn County. Both hunting preserves have the same owner.
Sumners said the response to the infections in free-range deer is an operation among the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The group has begun protocol for chronic wasting disease in free-range deer outlined in a 2002 Contingency Plan, he said.
According to the plan, once the disease is found in a wild population of deer:
- The state Conservation Department notifies the state veterinarian with the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the state public health veterinarian with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
- The Missouri Conservation and Agriculture departments then begin work with private landowners to implement monitoring and testing of white-tailed deer in the region documented to have the disease in wild deer.
- The Conservation Department continues to implement herd management such as the length, methods and timing of hunting seasons with public input.
The state veterinarian and state public health veterinarian could not be reached for comment as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Chronic wasting disease transmits 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, Sumners said.
Since 2002, the Conservation Department has tested 30,000 deer statewide for chronic wasting disease, Sumners said. All of the tests of wild deer were negative until the discoveries in Macon County.
Chronic wasting disease attacks the nervous system of cervids like deer and elk, and there is no scientific evidence that the disease can be transmitted to other animals and humans, according to a statement from the Conservation Department.
According to the statement, certain parts of a chronic wasting disease infected deer should not be consumed, including: the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes.