Study’s early data shows 75% of Wisconsin deer infected with CWD die in first year

Dan Storm, DNR researcher, updated Natural Resources Board members on early findings following the first year of the Southwest Wisconsin Deer/Predator Study. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

Feb. 28 was the 16th anniversary of the discovery of CWD in Wisconsin.

So it was appropriate that when the Natural Resources Board held its meeting that day, board members heard more about chronic wasting disease.

The new information included testing results from last fall and results of deer and predator research in the southwestern counties.

Unfortunately, board members didn’t hear that the DNR, DATCP, or the governor were pulling out all the stops to slow the spread of CWD.

Dan Storm, DNR deer researcher, reported on the first year’s preliminary results from the Southwest Wisconsin deer/CWD and predator study.

During the winter of 2017, researchers put GPS collars on 138 deer. A total of 122 deer were successfully tested for CWD when captured and 12 deer tested positive for the disease at the time of capture.

“The 12 CWD-positive deer is a small sample size, but we saw that, at the end of the year, three-fourths of those that were CWD-positive had died,” Storm said.

In contrast to deer without CWD, at the end of the first year, three-fourths of those without CWD were still alive.

“What we can say definitively now is that the survival rate is significantly lower for CWD-positive deer,” Storm said.

The board also learned the results of surveillance of CWD during the 2017 deer hunting season.

During the last hunting season, samples were taken from 9,685 harvested wild deer, and 593 were positive for CWD.

The DNR reported that 5,427 of the deer came from the Southern Farmland Zone, of which 584 were positive for CWD.

Of the 4,258 samples taken in the remainder of the state, only nine were positive for CWD.

“We found new detections in Vernon, Milwaukee, Dodge, and Lincoln counties,” said Tami Ryan, DNR wildlife health Section chief. “We now have 47 CWD-affected counties of which 23 are due to wild detections.”

Ever since CWD was first confirmed in 2002 from bucks shot during the 2001 season, a total of 209,615 wild deer have been tested for CWD and 4,175 were positive.

The positives have included 4,148 in the Southern Farmland Zone and 27 in the remainder of the state.

When CWD was first discovered in Wisconsin in 2002, the DNR took an aggressive stand to attempt to eliminate or reduce its presence. Because of push-back by politicians and some landowners, the DNR now mostly monitors CWD.

Hopefully, Gov. Scott Walker and legislators will realize their mistake and attempt to reduce the spread of CWD before the disease brings a halt to the state’s deer hunting tradition.

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