Missouri Asking Citizens to Report Sick Deer

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With firearms deer season approaching, the Missouri Department of Conservation is asking citizens to report any sick deer they see.

The Conservation Department always is interested in reports of sick deer, because such reports help the agency detect outbreaks of common diseases such as epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and blue tongue. The discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in other states is one more reason for Missouri officials to take an interest in citizen reports of sick deer.

EHD and blue tongue are viral diseases that cause internal and external bleeding. They are spread by small, biting flies and are most common in drought years, when deer are concentrated around limited water supplies.

CWD is a brain disease caused by abnormal proteins, known as prions, and causes animals to starve. CWD is only known to affect members of the deer family.

The Conservation Department tested hunter-killed deer from every county of the state for CWD between 2002 and 2004. All the more than 22,000 tests came back negative. The agency continues to test sick deer reported by citizens in order to detect disease outbreaks.

"Continuous monitoring is the best way to ensure that we catch serious diseases early," said Wildlife Programs Supervisor Bill Heatherly. "Knowing about the incidence of more common diseases like EHD and blue tongue also helps when making decisions about deer management."

Heatherly said Missouri's firearms deer season, when hundreds of thousands of hunters take to the woods, offers an excellent opportunity to gather information about the health of the state's deer herd. He said anyone who observes deer that are sick or act abnormally should call the nearest Conservation Department office. Reports are most useful when they are made immediately and include detailed information about the location of the sightings.