Friday, September 22, 2017

A Horrible Disease - Kruetzfeldt-Jakob


         I had a sad conversation only a few days ago with a lady from Camdenton who told me that several years ago her husband died from Kruetzfeldt-Jakobs disease. Her name was Carol Schroeder. Her husband’s death was due to the same horrible disease that biologists call ‘Chronic Wasting Disease’ in deer and elk. It has also been called mad deer disease, or mad cow disease when it occurs in cattle.

         You have not heard the Missouri Department of Conservation talk about whether or not the disease can spread from deer to humans, but it is known that it does, whether it comes from deer or cattle.  For some reason, the news media has helped the MDC keep people very uninformed about this disease.  But there is much that you need to know if you hunt deer and eat deer.

         First of all, NEVER eat Venison that someone else has killed and butchered, and though it was an accepted thing to do for years past, DO NOT EAT DEER MEAT THAT COMES FROM THE SHARE YOUR HARVEST PROGRAM which the MDC has carried forth for years and years. You cannot be sure there are no prions in that meat you receive.  

         It is believed that prions, which are the diseases infective agents in deer, elk, goats, and cattle is not found in blood or meat, but rather in the brain and spinal fluid of the animal.  It might possibly be found in bone marrow, but that is something they aren’t sure about.  It might well be that you could eat the meat from a CWD animal without getting the disease, but if that animal has been shot in the spine or brain, prions may be found throughout the body of the animal.
         If the spinal column is cut as part of the butchering who knows where prions may be in the meat.  The MDC knows that.  This year all deer killed in a selected twenty-five county area in the state MUST BE checked at a designated check station for CWD… the animal term for the Kruetzfeldt-Jakobs malady in man.  I believe if deer hunting is to continue in states with a good percentage of CWD deer, that testing has to be part of it. I don’t think I ever want to eat another deer if it hasn’t been tested.  Maybe if I hadn’t talked to so many people in this state who have lost loved ones to that disease, I wouldn’t be so nervous about killing a deer and butchering it, putting the meat in my freezer that will be eaten by several others than just me.
         But in a dozen or so cases I have been contacted about, all were men and all were deer hunters.  Relatives talked of the horrible consequences they witnessed in the death of their loved ones. In each case, the Center for Disease Control out of Atlanta has required the victims to be immediately cremated, no embalming or funeral allowed.
        The lady I talked with told me that her husband had died in a St.Louis hospital in a quarantined room and that his body was taken to the crematory by police escort to be sure that if any accident occurred on the way his body would not be handled by unknowing first responders.
         “I never believed in assisted suicide,” she told me, but I would have given anything if it could have happened for my poor husband.  It took him two months to die and what he went through, what I saw as his brain deteriorated, I cannot even talk about it to this day.”  So because of what I have learned I would recommend that no one in the future take deer meat they know nothing about, and that would end the economic viability of deer processing plants and those who make deer sausage and jerky often for gifts or sale.
         I don’t like that, because the great percentage of those people are fine folks and have nothing to do with what created this disease.  Of course those who handle deer meat on that kind of scale use rubber gloves, but no one can be absolutely sure that they won’t be in contact with prions when you are dealing with dozens of deer. That’s because no one seems to know exactly what those ‘prions’ are . They are some kind of strange protein, not a virus or bacteria.  I have asked my daughter, a doctor, to tell me more about it, but even though she saw a patient with disease in medical school, she hesitates to say much about the disease, or the prions, because doctors really aren’t sure what to say about, and how to adequately inform the public about it.

         If you research it, you will learn that it is pretty much known that Kruetzfeldt -Jakobs disease was first diagnosed in England, sometime in the seventies and eighties of the last century.  The cattle industry in that country was giving cattle all kinds of medicines and hormones to put more weight on steers and produce more milk in dairy cattle.  The beef producers got the great idea that man could go against the way God had created things to make more money.  He had created herbivores and carnivores and omnivores on this earth, if you really do believe in a Creator.  Herbivores are plant eaters, carnivores are meat eaters and omnivores are those creatures which eat both plants and meat.

         Omnivores include man but not deer or cattle. But the industry started feeding cattle meat by-products and bone meal mixed into the feed in feedlots.  That is how the mad-cow disease began, as a result of greedy men wanting to make beef cattle heavier and dairy cattle bigger to produce more milk.  In deer it started with that same kind of greed.  Mix in meat and bone meal to feed elk and deer and it would make them bigger, with bigger antlers.  In North Missouri, an Amish man who wanted to raise and sell big bucks in pens, bought several CWD infected deer from a deer breeder in Ohio and it has been reported, but not verified, that as hundreds of people started to raise deer in pens, they were worried that a unhealthy looking deer might infect others, so they released them into the wild.

         The first cases of wild deer dying from the disease took place just a little ways from a penned-deer operation in North Missouri.  Those operations are now found all over Missouri, and I am not sure if all of them, or even the greater percentage of them, have had their stock tested.  It is a big time moneymaker for those who raise deer, because the bucks they raise are put in enclosures where they can be hunted by very wealthy trophy seekers. 
         I was told by a man who worked at such a place that he helped inject bucks with two chemicals so they could be moved from pens where they were raised, to a pen where they could be shot.  He said the chemical given to the buck had warnings on the boxes to not inject the chemical into any animal that would be eaten. He said that those deer were all processed and given to the MDC to go into the “Share Your Harvest” program.  He said it is likely that many poor families ate meat that was chemically tainted by those dangerous injections and never knew it.  Another reason that this state should immediately stop that practice of giving deer meat away to poorer families.  People are dying from eating CWD deer meat.  The MDC no doubt knows there is a risk but if you look at their announcements and their concerns over the disease, they never ever acknowledge that it might be a risk for hunters and their families who eat venison.

         In fact, I doubt if there are any records to be found about the number of people in this state or any others who have died from Kruetzfeldt-Jakobs disease. Why not?  Don’t you think there are accurate numbers on deaths from other diseases?  CWD is a threat to Conservation Departments because they will lose great amounts of money if deer hunters stop buying deer tags.  If non-resident hunters quit coming here, it will harm the state’s economy. 
         If you want to realize how deep all this might go, you should realize that this article cannot be used in a large number of Missouri Newspapers… not even as a letter to the editor.  As far as this problem may extend into today’s deer numbers in this state or how much of a problem it may become, you are never going to know what the whole truth is.  But the people of this state needs to hear from Mrs. Schroeder and others who have witnessed the disease, people like Bill Zippro from Joplin who lost his brother to the disease the year after his brother killed a big buck that didn’t seem to be wild.

         But none of that is going to happen.  So I pass on the one thing that seems to be a way for hunters to be a little safer.  Don’t even touch a sick or dying deer, and do not clean a deer shot in the spinal column or brain.  Don’t cut through any bone, cut the meat off the carcass without causing any cuts or damage to the spinal column.  In that way, even if the prions are there, you are not likely to contact them or release them into the meat.  The day has to come, and soon, that all deer killed in this state are immediately tested, so the meat can be utilized by a hunter and his family, safely.

         And I would recommend that everyone who hunts read the article in one of my past magazines written by a Texas doctor about deer and CWD.  To get a copy of it call my office…417-777-5227.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Spiders Snakes and Mushrooms

           One of the bad things about this time of year is all the spider webs that are across woodland trails.  I don’t get bothered much with mosquitoes or ticks or  poison ivy, but I hate spiders with a passion.  Still have two scars on my arm resulting from spider bites back when I was a kid… likely a brown recluse.  But what I hate most is how a doggone spider web feels across my face when I walk into them.   Makes me itch all over.

            Also this time of year I warn readers that copperheads, and cottonmouths and rattlesnakes are more dangerous at the close of summer than they are in the spring, because this is the time they are molting and moving.  At night as it cools, they come out onto surfaces that hold the days warmth, like sand, concrete, gravel and asphalt.  Beware when you are out at night.  Do you know why there are no poisonous snakes in the Ozarks?  It’s because they are ‘venomous’—not poisonous.  Living creatures which kill with a bite or sting inject venom into their prey, not poison.  Things that are poisonous are certain plants and certain mushrooms, and man-made chemical compounds. But truthfully, poison ivy is not poisonous!

           I notice that some conservation departments put out little pamphlets which list ‘non-poisonous’ snakes.  Well, it does convey the message, but it is a little inaccurate.  In some of those publications the harmless hog-nosed snake, also known as a spreading adder, is inaccurately portrayed as non-poisonous.  Hog-nose snakes have a venom in their bite which is deadly if you are a toad.  Their small fangs are in the rear of their mouth and they do indeed have that venom back there.  But they do not bite anything in defense, and cannot get those fangs into a person unless you put your finger back there and jerk it into the fangs.  Believe it or not, a herpetologist did that once and his finger swelled up and he got fairly ill.  A herpetologist is a snake biologist… someone who studies reptiles.

            As you may have heard they found a two headed timber rattlesnake down in Arkansas recently and it is now alive and well in a Game and Fish Commission nature center at Crowley’s Ridge, near Jonesboro.  It is not a small one, obviously has lived through a few winters.  I got to thinking that if one rattlesnake head could be really dangerous in the amount of venom it could inject, think how awful it would be to be bitten by two different rattlesnake heads… four fangs and twice the venom.

            And then I got to thinking, what if one head ate one rat and the other head swallowed another rat at the same time.  Two rats in one snake belly might present a problem. I say that because no snake I ever heard of eats more than one rat or one rabbit or one gopher at a time.  True, they will often eat several eggs at one visit, but an egg ain’t a rat.  Rats have legs that stick out and claws and teeth and hair.  So if they each ate a rat at the same time, which head would suffer if the body developed a case of indigestion. 

            Because of my scientific background I am forced to think of things like that and answers are not easy to come by.  But if I came across a rattlesnake like that I wonder if I cut off one head if it would kill the whole snake.  Or would the other head crawl off with the body and live out it’s life thanking me for getting rid of the other head, or would it get mad and try to get revenge.  I guess it depends on the personality of each head.  I have seen a pair of brothers, or a brother and sister, get along very well their whole lives, but then there are those who have been at each other’s throats since they were big enough to walk.

            Whoever found that snake, or those snakes, whichever the case may be, sure passed up a golden opportunity by giving it away.  He could have taken it to fairs and carnivals around the Ozarks in the summer, set up a tent and charged a quarter to anyone who wanted to go in and see it.  Then he could just put it out in the shed in the winter under a pile of rocks and not have to worry about spending anything on it in the way of snake food until next April.

            My daughter Christy is a science and biology teacher who followed in her ol’ dad’s footsteps, working several summers as a park naturalist in a Missouri State Park.  She roams the woods up here on Lightnin’ Ridge looking for mushrooms, and this is a good late summer-early fall for mushrooms.  There are many that are edible, and many which are very,very poisonous.  I think if we’d get a good rain that we’d soon have lots of coral mushrooms, which I really like to cook with venison or other wild meat.  Christy has found an assortment of mushrooms so variously and vividly colored that they make a good rainbow.  Every color you can imagine is out there.  If you would like to see a couple of her photos of them, go to the end of this column and you can see them.  You will be amazed!

            The fall issue of The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal is coming up soon.  I would love to get you a subscription fixed up before it does, but you need to arrange that before the first of the October because if your magazine doesn’t get mailed out with the whole big bunch of them mailed then, the post office charges four times as much to mail one individually.  Isn’t that a heck of a note? The Post Office makes more money out of my magazines than I do!  So does the printing company!  If you want to subscribe, or order one of my books, just call me at 417 777 5227.  But if you are wanting to talk about fishing, I have to limit the calls to one hour.  You can also email me at or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613

Bright-colored mushrooms, all found by my daughter, Christy, on Lightnin' Ridge

Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria

This poisonous mushroom is called Fly Agaric  (photo by Christy, found on Lightnin' Ridge)

This is an edible mushroom... the Coral mushroom.  (photo by Christy, found on Lightnin' Ridge)
Amanita arkansana buttons. The Yellow Caesar.

These two photo are of  The Yellow Cesar. The second, is one that hasn't fully opened. (Photos by Christy, found on Lightnin' Ridge)


This beautiful white mushroom is called White Brain.  

White Brain - Tremella fuciformis

  The Golden Ear - Tremella aurantia is an orange parasitic fungus of the shelf fungus Stereum hirsutism or False Turkey Tail.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Floods and Famine

       The floods are awful, but I can see the first settlers of Texas long, long ago, saying… “this will be a good place to build a town, and we’ll name it after ol’ Sam Houston hisself.  We’ll have a good view of the river from here and it’ll never get this high.”

       My late Uncle Norten once told me about an Ozarks deluge in 1933 when it rained so hard and the wind was so strong at times that it washed away the clay mud chinking on the west side of the cabin and started blowing rain in through the cracks.  He was only ten but he remembered that for awhile the sawdust that they used to cover the dirt floor was floating in water.  Fortunately, the oak shingles didn’t leak, and so their beds in the attic stayed dry.  Those beds consisted of makeshift mattresses filled with duck feathers mostly. He said it was a lot better life than the first Ozark settlers had enjoyed, when they had to live primitively.

       Eventually the rain ended, the sun reappeared, the flood ended and life returned to normal.  Then they just had the heat of summer to contend with… and the depression.  For a ten-year-old the depression was no problem. There in the hills, times didn’t get much worse than they had been, just because the stock market crashed.
       My heart goes out for those in the path of the storms, those who have lost so much because it seems that nature has become an enemy.  It will get worse as each decade passes.  Many of us have felt it was coming … those of us who feel we live a little closer to nature than the masses who crowd together in a world of concrete and pavement and glass and computers.
       No, I am not one of those global warming nuts…I have no scientific evidence to call upon to help me predict the future course nature might take, and I don’t know for sure what is happening or what is coming.  But  something is happening, and I am fairly sure it is going to get worse.  It is the consequence of huge, ever-increasing numbers of people, and the idea that whatever we do to the earth will have no lasting effect.  It is the problem of man not realizing that the earth is, after all, the boss…and man is not.

       What we are doing isn’t any great secret.  We are destroying the earth’s ability to protect us. But what is coming as a result of that, I can’t predict. I guess there will be more old timers sitting around and saying, “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like this.”

There is no turning around; there is no changing the course.  We are going wherever we are going, and good or bad, global warming, global cooling, or global chaos, ….it is coming eventually.  I would hate to be living in a huge city, where all of a sudden, there might be no course to take but trying to get out of it, to someplace where there aren’t so many millions of people to compete with and run from.  Some things a man can’t do a thing about.  When a massive black cloud forms on the horizon, you just can’t change its course or take away the power of the impending storm.  Not even with a computer.

       There is one thing that gives me a good feeling.  I know a place or two where the woods are deep and the trees are big, and the spring water is still clean and when I am there, there’s no one else to ruin it. There’s a cave there to protect me from wind and rain and ice alike.  If times get too hard, I intend to take my computer and television and a good sleeping bag and some matches, and move there.

       I have a few of the fall issue of my outdoor magazine left and will be glad to give them to those who have never seen it to those who will pay the postage.  Be one of the first callers and I will throw in the envelope free!  Just call me at 417 777 5227.  You can also email me at or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613