Hundreds of deer in the Heartland are being tested for Chronic Wasting Disease.
It's an illness transmitted from one deer to another, and if not managed, it could kill off the entire population.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is conducting this round of tests on deer tissues after two positive cases of the disease were found in wild deer killed near the Heartland Wildlife Ranch outside Bucklin during the Fall Firearms Deer Season.
This latest discovery, along with three cases of the disease, found in captive deer in the same area within the past couple of years, has led the Conservation Department to authorize landowners within a five mile radius of Heartland Wildlife Ranch to kill up to 600 deer on their land between now and March 15, so that the Department can test them to find out how prevalent the disease is in the area.
So far, 300 deer have been killed, and 250 of their tissue samples have been sent to a laboratory. Matt Wolken, the Protection Regional Supervisor for the Northeast Region Department of Conservation Office said the results are due back next week.
"Once all of the sampling is finished and all the results have come back, then the results will be analyzed by our Deer Biologist and our Research Science Division and in consultation with our Conservation Commission, the next course of action will be determined at that time," said Wolken.
The meat from the deer that are being tested has been sent to Buck Ridge Processing. Wolken said this processor was selected because it is located closest to the area where the affected deer were found and because it was an emergency operation. Wolken said Buck Ridge Processing is a state-inspected facility. After the meat is processed, it is then stored in separate containers in a refrigerated semi.
If the results come back negative, the meat will then be donated to the respective landowner or to the Share the Harvest program. Wolken said right now, this operation is on par to donate 4,800 pounds of meat to four different food pantries in the area, if the results come back negative.
Wolken said if this disease is prevalent in deer here in the Heartland, it could have a serious impact on Firearms Deer Season.
"Deer hunting is big business in the state of Missouri. It's enjoyed by a half million people. It brings millions and millions of dollars of income to the state."
Wolken said Chronic Wasting Disease is not harmful to humans.
The carcasses of the deer is being disposed of by the MDC in a landfill in Macon.
Members of the MDC will be answering your questions regarding this topic at the Bucklin Community Center, on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 3:30-7:30 p.m. The community center is located at 202 E. 4th Street, in Bucklin, Mo.
For more information about Chronic Wasting Disease, read a previous press release released by the Missouri Department of Conservation.