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Wisconsin shooters kill eight deer in battle against disease

By JR ROSS / Associated Press Writer

5/16/02

BLUE MOUND STATE PARK -- Jim Wipperfurth has hunted deer as part of a family tradition for 30 years.

Tuesday, he hunted deer for the first time as a scientist. He didn't like it.

Wipperfurth and a team of 18 other Wisconsin wildlife officials killed eight deer Tuesday in this 1,100-acre state park, the beginning of the state's effort to kill all the deer in an area infected with chronic wasting disease.

Wipperfurth said it was hard to stomach knowing all of the deer killed will be disposed of in landfills or other methods, rather than consumed as has been the tradition for generations in Wisconsin.

"If there would be any other way than what we're doing now, we'd do it," said Wipperfurth, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician. "This is definitely a last resort."

State officials found chronic wasting disease in 14 deer shot in the area near the park, the first time the disease that causes deer to wither away and die has been found east of the Mississippi.

The hunt was part of Wisconsin's effort to kill all of the estimated 15,000 deer in a 287-square-mile area in an attempt to eradicate the deadly disease that has infected the herd and poses a threat to Wisconsin's hunting tradition.

The state Legislature is expected to take up a bill this week that would provide up to $4 million to battle chronic wasting disease. An Assembly committee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday.

DNR spokesman Greg Matthews said the 5 1/2-hour hunt Tuesday morning was successful but largely symbolic. The DNR estimated in February there were about 40 deer in the park, a tiny fraction of the number the state wants to kill.

Wildlife officials believe the hunt could encourage local landowners to participate in the kill to harvest as many of the deer in the area as possible. There are no more hunts currently planned for state parks.

"We're also landowners in the zone. We're trying to set an example," Matthews said.

State officials expect to begin handing out permits for landowners to kill deer on their property next week and believe they will kill the majority of deer harvested.

David Frame isn't buying it. His family has owned 450 acres that border Blue Mound State Park since he was a child.

Standing on his porch overlooking rolling hills, Frame stopped mid-sentence to point out a turkey in a clearing more than a mile away. But he said spotting deer in the dense forest will be next to impossible as the brush and leaves grow in this spring, and the state's efforts will be wasted.

It also could be dangerous. Hunters shooting through the thick brush won't be able to see past the deer to know what they might hit if they miss, he said.

"You can't even see your feet when you walk through it now, and it's just starting," said Frame, 63. "It's just a dangerous situation trying to hunt this time of year."

No scientific studies have shown chronic wasting disease can spread to humans. But state officials will not allow hunters to keep the meat of the deer they kill as a precaution.

Samples must be cut from the deer's brain stems and sent to an out-of-state lab for testing. State officials took samples from the eight killed Tuesday for testing.

Hall Smith bought five acres adjoining the park and built his dream house four years ago after he retired from the University of Wisconsin in nearby Madison. While he'll let DNR sharpshooters onto his land to kill deer, he's concerned that state officials can't say for sure how the disease is spread or whether it poses a threat to humans.

Dave Mandell, an attorney representing Citizens Against Irrational Deer Slaughter that opposes the DNR's eradication plan, dismissed Tuesday's kill as a public relations move.

"They are trying to get publicity and public support for their program," he said. "Part of their mantra is, 'This is killing them too, but it has to be done."'

Wipperfurth fears Tuesday's kill is a sign hunting in Wisconsin could be forever changed.

His family gathers each year the night before the nine-day gun hunting season that begins in late November. That tradition will be put on hold this year.

"In the fall, we're out there for the meat, the enjoyment. Usually, there's family involved," Wipperfurth said. "This isn't like that."

On the Net:

DNR chronic wasting disease site: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/wildli...lth/issues/CWD/
 

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