Please don't paint 'pet' on wild deer, Missouri officials warn

Photo courtesy Jefferson County Sheriffs Office

The Missouri Department of Conservation is reminding residents that wild deer are not pets – even if you paint the word "pet" on the deer.

According to a post on the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, the state conservation agency responded to rural Festus, Missouri this week in response to a deer that had been painted. The deer had the word "pet" on it and was wearing a collar.

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Authorities warned that deer should never be considered pets – and they shouldn’t be moved from their natural habitat because of chronic wasting disease. Orphaned wildlife should be reported to the conservation office.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal prion disease that infects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can take more than a year to develop in infected animals, and some animals may die without ever showing symptoms. There are no treatments or vaccines for CWD.

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The CDC says there are no known human cases of CWD, but studies suggest it poses a risk to some non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from infected animals or come into contact with infected brain or body fluids.

"These studies raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people," the CDC says.