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Disease prompts state to consider stricter rules for captive deer

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 | 2:19 p.m. CDT; updated 9:47 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Chronic wasting disease, a neurological disease found mostly in the deer family, spread across North America beginning in 1967. Prior to 2000, the disease was confined to parts of Colorado and Wyoming. No treatment has been found for the fatal disease, and infected animal populations are exterminated to prevent additional transmission.

*A Sept. 6 Department of Conservation meeting will take place at the Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood.  An earlier version of the story misstated the location.

MACON — A crowd of more than 100 people gathered Tuesday evening at the Macon County Expo Center, where the Missouri Department of Conservation outlined proposed new restrictions on captive deer operations to prevent the spread of a deadly disease among the state's wild deer.

The new rules under consideration are intended to keep chronic wasting disease in check. They include stricter rules for transporting deer, mandatory testing of deer that die in captivity, a requirement of double fencing around captive deer operations to prevent contact between deer populations and new plans for dealing with deer farms and ranches infected with the disease.

"We want to keep protecting the deer inside and outside the fence," said Tom Draper, deputy director of the Department of Conservation.

Chronic wasting disease is a deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family. The disease has been reported in two Canadian provinces and 21 states, including Missouri, which confirmed its first case at a big-game hunting ranch in Macon County in 2010.

Since then, the disease has been detected at another ranch in adjacent Linn County and in the wild deer populations surrounding the two infected ranches. Overall, 11 captive and 10 wild deer have been infected in Missouri.

Draper said conservation officials were gauging the public on rule changes for Missouri's 300 captive-deer operations. Tuesday's meeting was the first of eight that will be held across the state over the next six weeks.

Draper said the rule changes under consideration could include:

  • Double fencing that would stop captive and wild deer from coming into contact
  • Stricter rules on the interstate and intrastate transport of live deer
  • Mandatory disease testing for every captive-deer operation in Missouri
  • A plan of action in case another captive-deer facility becomes infected, including public indemnity payments for captive-deer owners, whose herds become infected

Draper said these changes would help protect Missouri's captive and wild deer populations.

Not everyone agreed with the possible code changes. Eric Pinkston, the owner of a deer farm near Elmer, said some of the regulations would put Missouri deer breeders out of business.

Pinkston, who already has two fences surrounding his 22 acres of property, said installing two fences would cost some captive deer breeders thousands of dollars and could force them out of business. He said the disease testing costs him $125 per deer.

"A lot of guys can't afford that," he said. "Facilities aren't cheap. Testing isn't cheap." 

The Department of Conservation has asked members of the public to attend the following meetings and post comments at the department's website.

  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept.5 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Powder Valley Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road, Kirkwood
  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis St., West Plains

  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Nature Center, 2289 County Park Drive
  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Runge Nature Center, Missouri Highway 179, Jefferson City
  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at Missouri Western University Kemper Recital Hall in Leah Spratt Hall, 4525 Downs Drive, St. Joseph
  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Burr Oak Woods Nature Center, 1401 N.W. Park Road, Blue Springs 
  • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Springfield Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way 

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