Deer Hunters: Help Missouri Department of Conservation find and limit CWD by having deer tested

Deer with Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a deadly deer disease that has been found in northeast, central, and east-central Missouri. According to wildlife disease experts with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), chronic wasting disease has the potential to greatly reduce deer numbers, deer health, and deer hunting in Missouri. CWD could also hurt the many Missouri families and businesses that rely on deer hunting.

To help find and limit the spread of CWD, the Conservation Department needs the help of deer hunters who harvest deer in the areas where the disease has been found.

While no deer from southern Missouri have been found to be positive for CWD, deer and elk in northwest Arkansas have. The Department also needs the help of deer hunters in southwest Missouri to find possible cases of the disease in the area.


Hunters who harvest deer during the opening weekend of the fall firearms deer season (Nov. 12 and 13) in any of the 29 counties of the Department’s CWD Management Zone are now required to present their deer for CWD tissue sample collection on the day of harvest. Hunters must take their harvested deer to one of 75 MDC CWD sampling locations throughout the 29 counties. Hunters also have the option of presenting just the deer head with about six inches of neck attached.

Deer must be presented by the hunter who harvested the animal. Sampling locations will be open Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 12 and 13) from 7:30 a.m. until at least 8 p.m. Hunters can get free test results for their deer after samples are processed.

The 29 counties of the CWD Management Zone are: Adair, Boone, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Putnam, Randolph, St. Charles, St. Louis, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan, Warren, and Washington.

Get a map of the 29 CWD Management Zone counties, a list of the 75 CWD sampling locations, and other information online at and from MDC’s “2016 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information” booklet, available where hunting permits are sold.

“Early detection of chronic wasting disease is critical because once the disease is well established in an area, it is impossible to eradicate,” said MDC Wildlife Division Chief Jason Sumners. “Therefore, our increased testing of hunter-harvested deer in and around counties where the disease has been found will greatly improve our ability to find cases of CWD early and limit its spread to more deer in more areas.”

Sumners added that the Department’s CWD-testing efforts are critically important to protect a treasured wildlife species that about a half-million hunters pursue each fall and that 1 in 4 Missourians love to see.

“We want our kids and grandkids to grow up being able to hunt and watch a healthy and strong deer population in the state,” said Sumners, a deer biologist, and hunter. “Chronic wasting disease threatens that. The simplest thing hunters can do to help protect our state’s white-tailed deer is to get their harvested deer tested. We cannot do this without the support and participation of deer hunters.”

CWD testing involves collecting tissue samples from the necks of harvested deer. It takes only a few minutes and consists of MDC staff cutting an incision across the throat of the harvested deer to remove lymph nodes for CWD testing.

Hunters presenting bucks bound for taxidermy should inform MDC staff of that. Staff will complete paperwork and inform the hunters about participating taxidermists taking CWD tissue samples.

Hunters will also be asked to identify the location within the county the deer was harvested.

While testing is mandatory during firearms opening weekend, MDC staff will be available to remove tissue samples from deer harvested in the CWD Management Zone throughout the season. Hunters can contact their regional Conservation Department office for voluntary testing information: Central Regional Office in Columbia at 573-815-7900, Northeast Regional Office in Kirksville at 660-785-2420, and St. Louis Regional Office in St. Charles at 636-441-4554.


Hunters can help reduce their wait times at a CWD sampling location by:

  • Telechecking their deer before going to a sampling location,
  • Having their completed permit information ready,
  • Being prepared to locate their harvest location on a map,
  • Positioning their deer in the vehicle so the head and neck are easily accessible for staff to take tissue samples, or
  • Having the detached head with about 6 inches of neck attached bagged and ready.


Mandatory sampling during the opening weekend of fall firearms deer season refocuses the Department’s past CWD sampling efforts in the CWD Management Zone.

“Opening weekend of firearms deer season is the most popular hunting time for most deer hunters,” explained Sumners. “Hunters harvest about a third of our state’s total annual deer harvest during those two days. That’s about 90,000 out of 270,000 deer statewide and about 25,000 out of 77,000 for the 29 counties in the CWD Management Zone. Focusing our efforts on this key weekend gives us the best opportunity to collect the most tissue samples during a very concentrated time period.”

Sumners added that during the past several years, the Department has asked hunters in the CWD Management Zone to voluntarily have their harvested deer tested for CWD throughout the hunting season. To get an adequate number of tissue samples, Department staff and participating landowners also needed to harvest additional deer for CWD testing from areas very near where the disease has been found.

“We collected about 7,500 tissue samples last year,” he said. “Our goal for this year is up to 20,000 samples. This higher number will give our scientists enough data to be confident in determining the locations and extent of the disease within those counties. This information will be very helpful in limiting the further spread of this deadly deer disease.”


More than 100 cases of Chronic Wasting Disease found in deer and elk in northwest Arkansas has prompted MDC to continue its increased CWD surveillance efforts in seven southwest Missouri counties this fall and winter. No deer from southern Missouri have been found to be positive for CWD.

MDC encourages hunters who harvest deer in Barry, Christian, Douglas, McDonald, Ozark, Stone, and Taney counties to have their animals tested for CWD. Testing is free for hunters and MDC will offer test results to participating hunters as they become available.

Hunters can take their harvested deer for CWD testing through Jan. 15 to either the MDC Ozark Regional Office in West Plains or the MDC Southwest Regional Office in Springfield. Testing will be available during normal business hours, typically 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Cooperating taxidermists in the area will be collecting samples throughout the hunting season.

MDC staff will also collect tissue samples at select meat processors in the region during the opening weekend of the firearms deer season, Nov. 12 and 13.

Call the MDC Southwest Regional Office at 417-895-6880 or the MDC Ozark Regional Office at 417-256-7161 for more information.


The Department reminds hunters who harvest deer, elk, or moose outside of the state and bring the animal back to Missouri that they must report the animal’s entry into the state within 24 hours by calling 877-853-5665 or reporting it online at Reporting is required by law. The carcass must be taken to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry.

Hunters just passing through Missouri on their way to another state are exempt from this requirement as long as they are not in Missouri for longer than 24 hours.

The reporting requirement is only for whole carcasses and carcasses that have the head and spinal column attached. Parts that do not require reporting and that are at lower risk for harboring CWD include: meat that is cut and wrapped, boned-out-meat, quarters or other portions of meat with no parts of the spine or head attached, hides or capes from which excess tissue has been removed, antlers including those attached to skull plates or skulls where all muscle and brain tissue has been removed.


Chronic wasting disease is a deadly disease that infects only deer and other members of the deer family, called “cervids.” The disease has no vaccine or cure and is 100 percent fatal to all cervids it infects. CWD is spread from deer to deer through direct contact and through contact with soil, food, and water that has been contaminated with feces, urine, saliva, or carcasses of infected deer.

There is no evidence of CWD transmission to any species outside of the deer family, including humans.

The first cases of CWD in Missouri were detected in 2010 and 2011 in captive deer at private big-game breeding and hunting facilities in Linn and Macon counties. A total of 11 cases were confirmed in captive deer at the facilities. The total number of Missouri free‐ranging deer that have tested positive for CWD is 33 with 21 found in Macon County, 9 in Adair, one in Cole, one in Franklin, and one in Linn.


MDC has restricted feeding deer and placing minerals for deer in CWD-Management-Zone counties. Feeding deer unnaturally concentrates the animal in a small area, which can help spread the disease. Exceptions to the regulation include feeding of wildlife within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building, feed placed in a manner that excludes access by deer, and feed and minerals used solely for normal agricultural, forest management, or wildlife food-plot-production practices.

MDC strongly discourages the removal of deer carcasses from CWD-Management-Zone counties. Moving carcasses of potentially infected deer out of the immediate areas where harvested and improperly disposing of them can also spread the disease. If someone must move a deer carcass out of these counties, be sure to properly dispose of all leftover parts, such as by bagging them and placing in the trash.

Certain carcass parts are okay to move because they have a lower risk for harboring CWD. They include meat that is cut and wrapped, boned-out-meat, quarters or other portions of meat with no parts of the spine or head attached, hides or capes from which excess tissue has been removed, and antlers including those attached to skull plates or skulls where all muscle and brain tissue has been removed.

MDC encourages people to report sick deer to local conservation agents or Department regional offices.