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Wisconsin DNR considers CWD discovery’s fallout

Posted on April 19, 2012

Madison — Whether the discovery of CWD in Washburn County results in higher antlerless quotas this fall remains to be seen, but DNR officials on April 4 said they were well aware that deer units in that area already are close to goals.

“I know there is concern in that part of state already with the number of permits and the antlerless quota levels,” said Kurt Thiede, DNR Lands Division administrator. “Those units were close to goal, and we will take that into consideration when reviewing quotas.

The DNR will present this year’s antlerless goals and permit numbers to the Natural Resources Board on April 25, but as of April 12, the agency was leaning toward leaving quota and permit levels where they were before learning of the

CWD-positive doe, according to Dave Zebro, the DNR Northern Region warden supervisor.

Zebro said the DNR also is talking about hosting a public meeting in the Shell Lake area to help residents in that area learn more about the disease, and to talk about ideas for managing it.

“We want to get some information out, get some thoughts from the public, and look for ways to best manage this. We also want to make sure citizens know what to do if they see a sick deer,” Zebro said.

“The public is disappointed, but right now they want to know what they can do to try to work to protect the herd.”

Zebro said the DNR is already working with registration stations to set up for disease-surveillance efforts this fall.

“We want those heads from within a 10-mile radius of where the positive deer was found, and we will need public cooperation to get that done,” he said.

In the meantime, the DNR has worked with two deer pick-up contractors that work in Washburn, Polk, Barron, and Burnett counties to arrange for receiving car-killed deer heads. A freezer has been set up for the contractors. Four heads were brought in from car-killed deer last week.

Washburn County positive

CWD arrived in Washburn County via a 31⁄2-year-old adult doe found just west of Shell Lake on private land on opening day of the gun deer season.

A citizen contacted the Washburn County Sheriff's Department to report finding a sick deer. The deer was dispatched by a sheriff’s department deputy.

“The deer was lying down. It couldn’t get up. It was losing hair. We got a warden on-site to take the sample,” Thiede said.

The sample was submitted to the DNR Central Office in February. Tests by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostics Lab in early March came back positive for CWD. That test then was backed up by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. That report reached the DNR on March 30, and the agency issued a press release April 2.

Thiede said the DNR does not know how the disease reached Washburn County. The nearest CWD-positive wild deer was found 186 miles away, in Sauk County. He said the nearest CWD-positive captive is probably the captive deer found at Junction City in Portage County.

“We’re looking at maps to see where previous positive samples came from and then we will compare (by DNA) to the current sample,” Thiede said.

There are no game farms within 5 miles of where the deer was found, and maybe two game farms within 10 miles, he said.

A local person said there had been a game farm near where the doe was found up until about 15 years ago, but that farm was closed down and fence has been removed for some time.

“We are trying to learn as much as we can in this case. We would like to be able to know how everything came to be. We’re trying to piece together the best story possible,” Thiede said.

Zebro, DNR wildlife biologist Mike Zeckmeister, and DNR Animal Health Specialist Tami Ryan are working on those aspects of the case. They’ll soon be joined by Brian Glenzinski, the DNR’s new CWD coordinator, who replaces Davin Lopez.

“We will be testing this fall, so we will be reaching out to hunters to ask for donations of deer heads. We need to get a better idea of what’s up there,” Thiede said.

The DNR had already processed about 1,100 samples in Washburn County in 2002 and 2009, but found no positives prior to this latest testing.

As a result of finding a CWD-positive deer, a deer baiting and feeding ban will be implemented in four counties – Washburn, Polk, Barron, and Burnett. The doe was found about 3 miles west of Shell Lake, which puts it well within 10 miles of the corners of those four counties The ban is required by state statute.

Thiede asked citizens to call local DNR offices if they see any sick-looking deer.

History

CWD was discovered in Wisconsin near Mount Horeb in 2002, marking the first time it had been found east of the Mississippi River. The DNR has worked for the past decade to contain the disease by adopting a contentious policy calling for hunters to kill as many deer as possible in areas with infected animals, and employing its own sharpshooters in those areas.