The Missouri Department of Conservation wants to know how big a foe it is fighting in Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal, neurological disease that can spread through deer populations.

It’s already in Missouri. The disease was first detected in 2010 when it was discovered in captive deer in northeast Missouri. Since then, it has been detected in free-ranging deer in five counties – Adair, Macon, Linn, Cole and Franklin.

Now the Department of Conservation wants to get a better handle on how wide-spread CWD is. On Saturday and Sunday, opening weekend of the Missouri firearms deer season, hunters in 29 counties will be required to take their deer to one of 75 CWD sampling stations to have them tested.

The counties affected 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.

Stations where deer can be taken for testing are available on the Department of Conservation website,

The Department of Conservation also is keeping a close eye on counties in southwest Missouri counties. Though CWD has not been found there, more than 100 cases of the disease were recently found in northwest Arkansas.

In seven southwest Missouri counties – Barry, Christian, Douglas, McDonald, Ozark, Stone and Taney —  hunters are encouraged to bring in their deer for testing, though it is voluntary, not mandatory.

Why the concern? CWD is a contagious, slow-spreading disease that Department of Conservation biologists believe to be a major threat. Though it can be nearly impossible to halt, The Department of Conservation is taking action to slow the spread of the disease.

That program met a setback in September when a judge blocked the Department of Conservation’s efforts to stop imports of deer to breeders and private, high-fence hunting preserves.

He ruled that regulations already in place by the Missouri Department of Agriculture go far enough to monitor Chronic Wasting Disease, and additional sanctions by the Department of Conservation would unfairly affect the captive-deer business.