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      Dept. of Conservation restricts wildlife feeding and removes antler-point restriction

      The Missouri Department of Conservation hosts an informational meeting Saturday to alert landowners of their plans to reduce the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in the Heartland.

      Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal illness that attacks deer and other cervids. The first three cases of the disease detected in Missouri were found in captive white -tailed bucks being held at the Heartland Wildlife Ranches in Linn and Macon counties in 2010 and 2011. Since then, eight additional cases of CWD have been found in captive deer in the company's Macon County facility.

      In addition, there have been five cases of CWD found in free-ranging deer in Macon County since the fall of 2011.

      To reduce the spread of this disease, the Conservation Department has implemented new restrictions on feeding deer, and the removal of the antler point restriction.

      "Prohibition of feeding and placing of salt and minerals is an attempt to reduce the unnatural concentration of animals," said Jason Sumners, a resource scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "Concentrated animal feeding sites where they interact with one another are likely to promote the transmission of the disease."

      The removal of the antler point restriction is an effort to reduce the number of free ranging bucks , since scientists said they are more likely to spread the disease, which is transmitted by animal to animal contact. Scientists say there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans.

      Many landowners living near Heartland Wildlife Ranches said they're afraid the disease will cause a drop in their property values and they want to know the origin of the captive deer which had the first case of chronic wasting disease.

      "I would like to see an investigation," said Larry Pleus, who owns property at the intersection of Route 149 and Beachnut, northwesst of Ethel. "I'd like to see more openess. I would like to see assets frozen, for Heartland, at least temporarily, so we can figure out what went on and what people knew. Again, it's just not forthcoming and again, as landowners, we are left to pick up the rubbish. Our property value is diminishing by this. We need to find out if anybody did know anything."

      Pleus said he is glad the Department of Conservation is trying to reduce the spread of the disease amongst free-ranging deer but he wants to hear from the Missouri Department of Agriculture as to what is happening at Heartland Wildlife Ranches, where the disease was first found.

      We talked to Dr. Linda Hickam, state veterinarian for MDA, and the only thing she could tell us was that Heartland Wildlife Ranches is currently under quarantine.

      For more information, head to the Missouri Dept. of Conservation's website, and the Missouri Department of Agriculture's website.