WI: DNR making plans for former Buckhorn Flats

Almond, Wis. – Now that the state has bought the former Buckhorn
Flats game farm, what should be done with the property?

About 25 people attended an open house July 28, at Almond-Bancroft
High School to hear what the DNR has in mind for the land, where
Wisconsin’s first case of chronic wasting disease in farm-raised
deer showed up in September 2002.

The state used Stewardship funds to buy the 80-acre property, now
called the Almond Deer Farm, for $465,000 this spring. The land is
about a mile west of Almond in southern Portage County.

Eighty-two of the deer that were killed and removed from the
facility tested positive for CWD, a contagious and always-fatal
brain disease for which there is no cure.

Eighty percent of the deer on the farm were infected with the
disease, the highest rate of CWD infection recorded in North
America, according to Davin Lopez, the DNR’s CWD coordinator.

“We don’t have any definite plans for the property as of yet,” he
said.

The farm includes 55 acres of woodland and 25 acres of cropland, as
well as a single-family residence and shed. About 65 acres – the
area formerly used as a deer farm – is fenced in. The property has
been on the real estate market.

Under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
Buckhorn Flats owner Stan Hall, USDA shooters destroyed a mix of
does and yearlings in January 2006. No species of cervids were
allowed on the property under a plan that expired May 24,
2011.

“Under the original plan, the fence had to be up for five years and
time was running out,” Lopez said. “Our No. 1 priority is
maintaining that perimeter fence. (Purchasing the property)
basically came down to our only option if we wanted the fences to
remain up. We paid what we had to pay to purchase the home. This
was the pot of money that was readily available, and there was a
time crunch.”

Possible plans for the property include a second perimeter fence
and using the farm for CWD research, according to Lopez.

“We definitely want to put that second fence up,” he said. “We
would never put deer out there for research without that second
fence. The best single way to do the research would be to put live
deer out there and see if they come down with CWD.”

The DNR could take advantage of the nearby UW-Stevens Point College
of Natural Resources and use the residence as housing.

“Students could live there and get to class very easily,” Lopez
said.

Jerry Knuth, of Plover, past president of the Wisconsin Wildlife
Federation, said his group supports the research effort.

“That’s been our stance for at least a year,” Knuth said. “We saw
the daylight coming before this five-year period was up. We urged
them to purchase the land. The bottom line is the deer herd in
central Wisconsin needs to be protected.”

No decisions will be made on Buckhorn Flats until after Lopez meets
with DNR administrators. Lopez does not expect to make a formal
presentation to the Natural Resources Board on a final plan; the
DNR will decide what to do with the house on the property, whether
to put up a second fence, and whether to move forward with research
plans.

“I would hope we would know something by late fall or early
spring,” Lopez said.

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