SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Department of Conservation is proposing new rules on the handling of deer carcasses in an effort to combat chronic wasting disease.
The department's Conservation Commission is seeking public comments through early August on the proposed regulations that would further restrict how deer carcasses are transported, the Springfield News-Leader reported. The rules also outline how meat processors and taxidermists should dispose of deer parts.
Chronic wasting disease, which fatally attacks the animal's nervous system, has been found in 16 counties in Missouri. There have been 116 confirmed cases in the state.
CWD is transmissible through deer-to-deer contact, and it can affect elk and moose.
According to research, an infected deer carcass left in an area can spread the disease to other deer that come into contact with it. Moving a potentially infected carcass to new areas or improperly disposing of carcasses can spread the disease within the state.
Jason Sumners, the department's resource science division chief and deer biologist, said new cases also suggest the disease isn't being spread by the natural movement of deer, but rather by people.
"We have found some new cases of CWD more than 60 miles from any other known cases," Sumners said. "While we do not know specifically how they got there, we do know that deer rarely travel that far on their own."
The department said most deer hunters, meat processors and taxidermists are already properly transporting or disposing of deer carcasses, so they wouldn't be affected by the proposed rules.
But Sumners warned that a "small percentage can have a big impact on spreading the disease."
The commission will decide whether to approve, alter or reject the proposed regulations on Aug. 23. If approved, the regulations would go into effect Feb. 29, 2020.