Outdoor enthusiasts still support CWD bounties program

(Photo by Windigo Images)

Corrected results from a survey of outdoor enthusiasts still show broad support for reviving a program to offer bounties for deer carcasses infected with chronic wasting disease.

The Wisconsin DNR on Thursday revised totals from a survey of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a citizen group that advises the agency.

The original results for the deer payment program showed 64% in favor, 36% against. The corrected results show 57% in support, 43% against.

The DNR says the mistake in the tally was made when merging results from the online survey and those who answered in person at the statewide spring meetings earlier this month.

The plan calls for paying hunters and landowners between $750 and $1,250 per CWD-positive deer and $300 to businesses that open carcass drop-off sites.

The money would come from tax revenue generated by the state’s deer hunting economy. The governor and the Legislature would have to authorize the spending in the state budget.

The proposal is the brainchild of retired DNR biologist Mike Foy and retired DNR Wildlife Director Tom Hauge, who was working at the agency in 2002 when CWD was discovered near Mount Horeb. The DNR ran a similar bounty program under Hauge from 2003 and 2005 as the agency pushed hunters to kill as many deer as possible in hopes of slowing transmission.

The DNR ended up paying about $645,000 over those three seasons but hunters refused to buy into the idea of killing huge numbers of deer and the DNR ultimately scrapped the strategy. Wary of hunter anger, former Republican Gov. Scott Walker took a largely hands-off approach to CWD during his eight years in office.

CWD deteriorates deer’s brains, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior and finally death. The Centers for Disease Control says there’s no strong evidence that CWD can affect humans but it may pose a risk to people and exposure should be avoided. The disease has now affected 56 of the state’s 72 counties. The DNR defines “affected” as counties with positives and adjacent counties.

The Conservation Congress results are advisory only. It’s unclear whether anyone within the DNR or the Legislature will push for bounties again.

Categories: CWD, Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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