Wisconsin’s CWD expert, Mike Samuel, has suggestions for DNR and Natural Resources Board on white-tailed deer health
In March, the Natural Resources Board will have the opportunity to consider changes to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) chronic wasting disease (CWD) management plan from 2010 to 2025.
The NRB can consider recommendations of the DNR, the CWD Response Plan Review Committee (to be finalized in February), and opinions from the public and County Deer Advisory Committees.
With CWD now turning up in wild deer in at least 19 counties in Wisconsin, the board would do well to also heed the knowledge of Dr. Mike Samuel, professor of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at UW-Madison and assistant leader of the USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.
Samuel has been involved in research on CWD since 2002.
Some nuggets gained from talking to Samuel, who retires at the end of January, include:
- Though there has been no proof that CWD (an always fatal disease of deer, elk and moose) can transfer to humans, about 75 percent of human diseases originated from or have a reservoir in animals. Some examples include bird flu and influenza, rabies, West Nile virus, plague and tuberculosis. CWD should be taken seriously.
- CWD is transmitted by two major routes, one is contact between animals, and the other is through the environment. Saliva, feces and urine are sources of transmission, which is why feeding and baiting practices – which congregate deer – should be curtailed.
- Deer hunting is an important driver funding conservation efforts in the state. If hunter numbers slowly fall, as predicted (for reasons including concern hunters have shooting deer with CWD), funding of conservation programs will decrease unless something changes.
- Bucks have three to four more times the infection rate of does, and dispersing animals (often yearling bucks) carry the disease to new areas. This is reason to consider new hunting regulations to increase harvest on these animals in specific areas.
- Wisconsin, and the nation, must cooperate nationally to develop a rapid test for CWD that can be used in the field by hunters. Research is also needed to learn where disease prions are found in the environment.
The DNR has, in the past, emphasized that its management is based on science. The DNR and NRB would do well to listen to Mike Samuel.