Should Wisconsin pay hunters and landowners for CWD-positive deer?
Money usually gets results. Could it be the magic bullet in Wisconsin’s fight against the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD)?
The state’s $898 million in retail sales and $22 million in license sales that fund many natural resources programs are at risk if CWD takes down the state’s deer hunting tradition.
Mike Foy, retired DNR wildlife ecologist, told the Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators Association that state government has an obligation to manage wildlife as a public trust.
Foy proposes paying landowners and hunters for each CWD-positive deer they harvest. His hope is that reducing deer that have CWD will corral the disease to places it already exists, or at the very least slow down its spread.
After being discovered in southwest Wisconsin in 2002 when there was low prevalence, after 16 years, there are some areas where Foy says prevalence is now over 50 percent in 2-1/2-year-old bucks.
“I’m really concerned, for the deer population, for the economy that depends on the deer hunting season, and for Wisconsin conservation efforts,” Foy said.
Foy knows the disease is long-lasting, but says, like paying off a home mortgage, it will take efforts every year to combat it.
He proposes a completely voluntary program, where if a hunter submits a deer that turns out to be positive, the hunter and landowner are paid.
Focused culling in areas with high densities of infected deer will get better results than the general recreational deer harvest.
The longer the state waits to control prevalence, the worse CWD will get.
Wisconsin has spent tax money to protect the Packers, Brewers and Bucks. It makes sense that the state should spend money to protect the valuable deer economy, too.
What’s needed now is that people tell their legislators it’s past time to get serious about CWD and to try this program.