The Missouri Department of Conservation announced that the test results from wild deer harvested during the 2001 firearms deer season show no sign of chronic wasting disease (CWD). CWD has been detected in isolated wild deer populations in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Canada's Saskatchewan province."Seventy-two wild deer were tested," said Wildlife Division Administrator Ollie Torgerson. "At check stations, we sampled deer that looked sick or emaciated. Our thanks go out to the hunters who harvested the deer and provided the samples we needed."Sampling of wild deer will intensify in the fall 2002 season. "We are asking the public to report sightings of deer that look sick or are behaving oddly to their local conservation agent or conservation office," said Torgerson. The increased effort against CWD was stimulated by recent sales of captive elk from CWD-infected herds in Colorado to Missouri elk farms. These sales had the potential to introduce the disease into Missouri. Traced live elk in Missouri all tested negative.The disease appears to be spreading in both wild and captive populations of elk, mule deer and white -- tailed deer in the United States and Canada. "State officials and stakeholders are working diligently to safeguard Missouri's wild deer population. With CWD detected in the wild in Wisconsin-the first detection east of the Mississippi River -- our concerns have grown," said Torgerson. "The potential for this disease to spread to Missouri poses a real risk to our wildlife resources, to the elk and deer farmers and the big game hunting preserves."Under an agreement, the Missouri Conservation and Agriculture departments are developing a voluntary surveillance program for captive deer and elk and new regulations to prevent introduction of the disease. "We encourage full participation in the voluntary surveillance program," said Torgerson. "Surveillance and continued monitoring of wild and captive deer are the only practical ways to check for the disease."Additionally, the Conser-vation Commission voted unanimously at its March 7 meeting to authorize financial support -- for at least two years -- for testing costs associated with the new Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance program. "The commission voted to cover the cost of lab tests if free testing through current federal programs ends," said Torgerson. "This is a step to stimulate participation in the surveillance program.""Voluntary surveillance of elk for CWD will give us a base line for monitoring CWD in our elk herds, and will allow Missouri elk producers who participate in the program to ship elk from state to state," said Dr. Taylor Woods, state veterinarian with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. "This effort, coupled with the new rule that prohibits the entry of any elk or deer coming from an area infected with CWD, will safeguard against the introduction of the disease in Missouri."CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform ence-phalopathies (TSEs). It is unknown how the disease is spread. Infected deer or elk may transmit the disease through animal-to-animal contact or by contaminating feed or water sources with saliva, urine or feces. TSEs are thought to result from mutated proteins called prions that cause fatal degeneration, or wasting, of the brain. There is no evidence at this time that CWD affects humans.