The state Conservation Department is asking deer hunters in 30 counties to take part in the second year of testing for chronic wasting disease.

Like last year, the department is trying to gather samples from 200 deer in each of the counties. Participation in the program by hunters is voluntary.

Last year’s tests of more than 6,000 Missouri deer found no cases of chronic wasting disease, a neurological ailment in a family of diseases that includes scrapies in sheep and mad cow disease cattle. Deer that contract chronic wasting disease die within two years.

Eric Kurzejeski, resource science supervisor for the Conservation Department, said the agency still has no indication that the disease is present in Missouri but is taking no chances.

During the firearms deer hunting season Nov. 15-25, the agency hopes to take tissue samples from 6,000 deer in the counties of Audrain, Barry, Boone, Buchanan, Cass, Dallas, Daviess, Dent, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Knox, Lewis, Macon, Maries, Marion Mercer, Miller, Newton, Nodaway, Oregon, Osage, Ray, Saline, Scott, Ste. Genevieve, Stoddard, Washington, Webster and Worth.

Most samples will be taken during the opening weekend of the season. Hunters who agree to let their deer be tested won’t be delayed long at check stations.

“It should be much quicker than last year, and that only took about five minutes when we had to remove the heads” from the deer to obtain brain stem tissue for testing, Kurzejeski said.

This year, the tests will use samples from the deer’s retropharyngeal lymph nodes, which are located in the back of deer’s throats.

Tissue samples from all the deer will be sent to a federal laboratory in Wyoming. Test results will be released as soon as all tests are complete. Last year’s tests took nearly five months to complete, because of the large volume of samples from many states and limited laboratory capacity.

During the 2004 firearms deer season the department plans to collect samples from deer in counties not checked last year or this year.

Missouri counties where deer were tested last year were Andrew, Bates, Bollinger, Caldwell, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, St. Francois, Franklin, Greene, Holt, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Monroe, Pike, Platte, Ripley, St. Clair, St. Louis, Scotland, Sullivan, Taney, Texas, and Warren.