BUFFALO, Mo. — Some Ozarkers say the state is trying to force them out of business. They're deer breeders and they are convinced the Missouri Department of Conservation wants to eliminate the entire industry.
The issue here is Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. It's been around since the late 1960s but wasn't found in Missouri until 2010 in a captive herd. Now the MDC wants to tighten regulations on deer breeders and state legislators are considering it.
One of the oldest and largest deer breeding facilities in the state is tucked away in rural Dallas County. It's owner shies away from the spotlight too; he's mennonite and can't be on camera. But his industry comrades can and Nathan Blosser says it's important they do.
So Kurt Humphrey and Troy Popielarz, deer breeders as well, are doing the talking Tuesday. They say they want the other 280 breeders in Missouri to know the state's conservation department is about to make their jobs more difficult.
"They've got a few new proposals on fencing, raising our fences to ten foot, double fencing, just like my hunting preserve-- you take an 800 acre preserve and you're looking at $250 to 300,000 to put another fence around it and we just can't afford to do that," Kurt explains.
The MDC's goal is to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. It's always fatal and was likely brought to Missouri by an out of state animal.
Both the Missouri department of conservation and deer breeders agree part of the problem is deer don't recognize borders, but people do. Breeders tell us they are much less likely to transport CWD from state to state when they buy and sell deer because of all the permission and permitting they need than the wild deer that can walk right in.
"The nice thing is wild deer don't have very large home ranges so we're not expecting deer to migrate from highly infected Chronic Wasting Disease areas such as out west in Colorado and Wyoming or Wiscounsin," explains the conservation department's state veterinarian Kelly Straka. "So we are concerned about animals that are brought in, either carcasses or live animals brought in from other areas of the country that have a higher prevalence of the disease."
But the breeders say they test 100% of their herds-- unlike the state.
"When it comes down to it of the native population they're testing like one tenth of one percent," Troy and Kurt explain.
So they say it's unfair to point fingers at the ones who'd like to continue doing business quietly and unnoticed.
Right now there are no cases of Chronic Wasting Disease in captive herds in Missouri. The MDC tested 38,000 free ranging deer and found 10 were CWD positive.
This continues to be a hot button issue among state politicians. On August 19th... a house committee dedicated to stopping the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease is meeting again and touring Nathan Blosser's facility.