Conservation Department Seeks Sick Deer Reports
The Missouri Department of Conservation asks state residents to report sightings of listless, sickly-looking deer. Biologists are watching the deer herd for signs of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
CWD, mad cow disease and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease, which affects . humans, are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs result from mutated proteins called prions and cause a fatal degeneration, or wasting, of the brain. The disease is always fatal to animals that contract it.
There is no known link between CWD and the brain-wasting diseases which affect cattle and humans. Furthermore, there is no evidence of CWD in Missouri. However, its presence in wild deer and elk in some nearby states has conservation officials taking precautions.
"CWD has been identified in wild deer and elk in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming, and it appears to be spreading slowly," said Wildlife Research Biologist Jeff Beringer. "We are monitoring the deer herd to enable us to quickly detect and address CWD, should it spread to Missouri." Sightings of deer that are thin, appear weak, salivate excessively, have drooping ears and are unafraid of humans should be reported to the nearest conservation agent. Because CWD and several diseases affecting deer have similar symptoms, testing is necessary to determine the cause of illness.
Although there is no evidence that CWD can be passed to pets or humans, Beringer advises against handling sick deer. He also encourages hunters who harvest and process deer to take common-sense precautions, such as wearing rubber gloves. Since TSEs appear to affect the central nervous system of the afflicted animal, hunters also might want to avoid handling or eating deer brain or spinal tissue.
Efforts to monitor the state deer herd for CWD will include random testing of deer harvested during the 2001 deer hunting season.