Missouri conservationists and hunting ranch owners are at odds over how to contain the looming threat of a fatal deer disease in the state’s deer populations.
Chronic Waste Disease is an incurable disease that is fatal to deer and elk, but is not harmful humans
Since the first case was reported in 2010, 20 dead deer have tested positive for Chronic Waste Disease in Missouri. Nearly all of them were found in close proximity to Macon County, located in the state’s north-central region.
To control the spread of the disease, the Missouri Department of Conservation is proposing new regulations that would require hunting ranches to build higher fences and double their size in order to keep infected deer out.
Missouri hunting ranch owners disagree, arguing that higher fences would be too expensive and would interfere with their business.
“How does it fix this by killing our industry?” ranch owner Joe Humphrey told the Waynesville Daily Guide.
Hunting ranch owners sometimes have their deer transported in from breeders out of state. Conservationists are worried that transported deer could be bringing the fatal deer disease into Missouri.
“With captive deer being transported across our landscape, we need to enhance our fencing standards,” said Aaron Jeffries, assistant director of the conservation department.
But the Missouri Whitetail Breeders and Hunting Ranch Association (MWBHRA) disagrees. They’re countering with the idea that captive deer should be considered livestock, which would transfer them under the authority of the state’s Department of Agriculture, which actively monitors the health of captive animals.
The two organizations say that the department of agriculture would do a better job at monitoring CWD among deer in the state.
The Missouri Conservation Department currently regulates all the deer in the state.
Read about a similar Chronic Waste Disease issue in Wisconsin.
Sam James, the associate president of the MWBRHA, said that the conservation department is not concerned about the interests of hunting ranch owners.
“There are people (in the department) who don’t approve of what we do, and we’ve had enough of it,” James told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “Putting us under one state agency makes much more sense, and Agriculture can do the better job.”
James’ organization and the Missouri Department of Conservation are planning to ask lawmakers to hear their cases during the 2014 session of the Missouri Legislation, which begins January 8.