Future of deer herd in hunters’ hands
By Ken M. Blomberg
It’s no secret that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) poses the greatest risk to North America’s deer herds and deer hunting. Here’s some undisputed facts:
— Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a disease of the nervous system in deer and elk that results in distinctive brain lesions. It continues to be a major issue for wildlife scientists throughout the nation, and a key focus for research at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC). The NWHC continues to investigate CWD in Wisconsin and throughout the nation.
— One in four deer in Wisconsin’s Iowa and western Dane counties has CWD. Our very own Portage County is on the list of 19 counties with a history of CWD infected deer roaming within their borders.
— Just last week, outdoor writer Pat Durkin reported in the Appleton Post Crescent, “One of Wisconsin’s oldest and largest sausage makers told its customers in late August that it will no longer process venison into sausage and other snack-meat products because of chronic wasting disease’s worsening spread in the state’s deer herd.”
— Silver Creek Specialty Meats Inc. of Oshkosh noted ongoing CWD research by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency influenced their decision. “A study that exposed 18 macaque monkeys to CWD since 2009. So far, five of the monkeys have contracted the always-fatal brain disease. Two got sick by eating CWD-infected meat, and one got sick by eating infected brain matter. The other two got sick after their brains were injected with infected materials. Fifteen years ago, the public was told of no scientific evidence that CWD spread to humans.”
— At five prior Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spring fish and game hearings, sportsmen voted unanimously to ban statewide deer baiting and feeding – in hopes of slowing or stopping the spread of CWD in our state. Yet unbelievably, in June of this year, our lawmakers voted to let their constituents continue to bait and feed deer by enacting a sunset provision on Wisconsin’s deer baiting and feeding ban rather than accept scientific documentation of CWD.
The DNR’s initial fight to prevent CWD from spreading has failed. They began monitoring the state’s wild white tailed deer herd in 1999. The first positives were found in 2002 through testing of deer harvested in November 2001 in isolated southern counties.
Today, the DNR reports, “There are currently 43 CWD affected counties. Of these counties, 19 are designated as such due to having a wild CWD positive deer, 10 are within 10 miles of a wild CWD positive deer and 14 have a captive CWD positive or are within 10 miles of a captive CWD positive deer.”
The department has developed a chronic wasting disease response plan through the year 2025, developed by members from the DNR, Wisconsin Conservation Congress and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. They recommend practices to reduce and prevent the spread of CWD that can be done through voluntary implementation by Wisconsin citizens – with hopes human-related introductions of CWD may be reduced.
That includes a CWD sampling plan reported last week in the Gazette. It bears repeating here in this space.
In cooperation with local businesses, DNR staff are collecting deer heads for CWD surveillance testing in area counties during the 2017 hunting seasons. If you harvest an adult deer, consider submitting a sample for testing.
In Portage County, head samples can be dropped off at 24-hour self-serve kiosks at the Buena Vista DNR Field Station, 8310 County Road F. Bancroft, or the Plover DNR Ranger Station, 2510 Maple Drive, Plover.
In addition, lymph node samples may be dropped off at Vollmer Taxidermy, 3631 Plover Road, Plover, 715-345-1934, or the Almond Rod and Gun Club, 8092 County Road GG, Almond, 715-570-1147.
In the end, the only real hope for surveillance testing lies in the hands of concerned hunters. Concerned for the deer herd and concerned for their family’s health. And if you’re concerned about your lawmaker in Madison, give him or her a call and let them know the future of our deer herd is also in their hands.