Conservation agent cautions Missouri residents about injured or sick deer.

Missouri 06/12/10 pulaskicountydaily.com:  by Darrell Todd Maurina – Waynesville –  Without a veterinarian’s evaluation, it may never be known with certainty whether the baby deer shot Wednesday by Waynesville police was sick. However, Conservation Agent Aaron Pondrom cautioned that sick deer do exist in Missouri, and if an animal appears to be sick, the general public should avoid contact and call conservation agents or other professionals.

Inability to walk property is often a key indicator of a diseased deer. It’s one symptom of rabies which is a serious concern for many wild animals, Pondrom said, and is a key symptom of a new illness, chronic wasting disease (CWD), that has forced officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation to establish new regulations for handling deer.

“CWD is a fatal neurological disease and this past year a deer was identified in north-central Missouri having CWD. It caused great alarm with the conservation department that we had identified this disease here in Missouri because of the potential damage,” Pondrom said. “Some of the symptoms people may want to watch for are a deer in an emaciated condition and with difficulty walking, and if we encounter those deer, we would like to find them and take a sample to confirm if it is chronic wasting disease.”  CWD is similar to bovine spongiform encephalitis or “Mad Cow Disease,” which affects cattle, but CWD infects whitetail deer and elk.

“It is important for us to continue to monitor the whitetail deer population to see if it is spreading within the state,” Pondrom said. “Right now the only report we have is a deer in Linn County in a confined wildlife hunting area. So far hundreds of deer have been tested and none of them have tested positive, but the conservation department continues to be vigilant and make sure it isn’t spreading. We want to do everything we possibly can to isolate the disease.”

Eating the meat of obviously sick animals is never a good idea, but Pondrom said deer hunters have no reason to worry if they happen to harvest a deer in the early stages of CWD that doesn’t show symptoms. The disease is confined to the brain and spinal cord, he said, and people usually don’t eat those parts of deer.  “Absolutely we don’t have any scientific evidence that deer infected with chronic wasting disease, if eaten by humans, can transmit that,” Pondrom said.

While the disease probably can’t be transmitted from deer to people through ordinary means of eating deer meat, it’s possible that a deer which can’t walk and has chronic wasting disease could transmit the illness to other deer, even if dead, if healthy deer eat infected parts of the deer. Because of that, the spinal cord and head of deer need to have special processing.

“The meat processor has to dispose of the spinal cord and other parts of the animal in a properly permitted landfill. That prevents the possibility of those parts being dumped into a landfill where other deer cold eat it,” Pondrom said.  Other new regulations in 2010 require hunters who transport deer, moose or elk into Missouri with the spinal column or head still attached to report it within 24 hours of entering the state and take the animal to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours.

Those regulations don’t apply to hunters who bring back deer without the spinal column or brain tissue inside the skull. That includes cut and wrapped meat that has been boned out, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, hides or capes from which all excess tissue has been removed, antlers removed from the skull, antlers attached to skull plates, skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue, upper canine teeth and finished taxidermy products.

Additional procedures have been put into effect for Linn County and adjacent areas where wild deer may have come into contact with the diseased CWD deer.

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