WI DNR will shoot 500 deer in area to 2 determine CWD spread

spectr17

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DNR will shoot 500 deer in area.

3/08/02

Susan Lampert Smith, Wisconsin State Journal

Agency wants to learn how far chronic wasting disease has spread

MOUNT HOREB - After a week of flying helicopter surveys over an area where deer are afflicted with chronic wasting disease, the Department of Natural Resources announced Friday it will shoot 500 more deer to determine how far the disease has spread.
indentThe three affected deer were killed during the November gun-hunting season in the Dane County town of Vermont, near the intersection of highways J and F.

Bob Manwell, a DNR spokesman, said the agency has decided to kill about 500 deer in area within 11 miles of the center of the outbreak. In addition to state and federal shooters, Manwell said the DNR will ask landowners to shoot deer for sampling.
indent"We'll be contacting folks in areas where we want samples," Manwell said.

Chronic wasting disease is a neurologic disease of deer and elk. It belongs to the family of diseases that includes mad cow disease. These diseases, known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or prion diseases, attack the brains of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to lose weight, act abnormally and die.
indentChronic wasting disease hasn't been shown to affect humans or livestock. But mad cow disease has crossed the species barrier to cause fatal brain disease in people who ate infected beef.

Until a week ago, chronic wasting disease was thought to be confined to elk and deer farms, and to wild deer and elk in an area where the borders of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota come together.
indentIn Wisconsin, the DNR sampled 345 deer statewide, including 82 at Mount Horeb. None of the deer from the other locations - Black River Falls, Crivitz, Fence, Spooner and Viroqua - showed evidence of the disease.
 



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Landowners begin deer kill.

Wisconsin State Journal

3/14/02

MOUNT HOREB - Landowners Thursday began shooting some of the 500 whitetail deer the state wants killed to test for a deadly brain disease, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

The DNR could sample the animals' brains for chronic wasting disease, which has appeared in area deer, the first time it has been detected east of the Mississippi River.

Carl Batha, who heads the DNR's deer sampling effort, said more than 100 landowners in the area along the Dane-Iowa county line picked up permits on Wednesday and Thursday.

"The response has been fantastic," Batha said of the landowners. "People aren't happy about it, but they understand the effort and want to help."

Landowners in a 415-square-mile area centered around the town of Vermont, should call the DNR Dodgeville office at (608) 935-1945 to apply for a permit, Batha said.

- AP, State Journal staff
 

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700 deer in test area might be infected.

3/15/02

Susan Lampert Smith Wisconsin State Journal

DODGEVILLE - As many as 700 deer in western Dane County and eastern Iowa County may be infected with chronic wasting disease, a state official speculated Friday.

Sarah Shapiro-Hurley, a deputy director with the Department of Natural Resources, predicted that the outbreak in southern Wisconsin's deer herd could quickly dwarf problems faced in Colorado and other Western states. Previous experience with the disease, which causes deer to lose weight and die, is based on Western deer and elk densities of five to 10 animals per square mile.

"Here, we're talking about densities of 50 to 120 deer per square mile," said Shapiro-Hurley, a wildlife veterinarian. "We're up against a much more difficult scenario."

Scientists believe the disease, a relative of mad cow disease, spreads more quickly if deer are densely packed. There is no record of chronic wasting disease spreading to humans.

Shapiro-Hurley said that as many as 700 deer in the 415-square-mile surveillance area may be infected, based on the fact that three of 82 deer tested in Mount Horeb in November had the disease, an infection rate of 3 to 4 percent.

"There are 20,000 deer in the area and if it (the infection rate) held true, you'd be talking about a lot of deer," Shapiro-Hurley said.

She spoke Friday morning at a news conference outside the DNR Dodgeville headquarters, which has been turned into a command center to coordinate a major sampling effort.

The DNR wants area landowners to kill 500 deer, a rate of one per 640-acre section, in an effort to see how far the disease has spread. Deer must be killed because the only way to test for the disease is to examine their brain stems for the telltale damage of the disease.

Inside the command center, phones rang as landowners called in to volunteer to shoot the deer. A giant plat map of the area bristled with green push pins, showing where permits had been issued, and red pins, showing where deer had been killed. As of noon Friday, the DNR had issued about 300 permits, and 18 deer had been reported killed.

The command center was staffed with DNR people from many departments, part of a massive effort that includes state and federal employees driving farm to farm to recruit enough people to shoot deer for a scientifically valid sample.

Shapiro-Hurley said she didn't have an estimate of how much the effort was costing the DNR, which, like all state agencies, is facing budget cuts. So far, the DNR is "redirecting other resources" to pay for the testing effort.

"This is a crisis of such magnitude that we're not going to shortchange this effort to take care of more everyday tasks," she said.

Each deer head tested for the disease at a federal laboratory in Ames, Iowa, will cost the state about $30. In addition, technology to safely disposal of infected animals is costly. The disease is caused by a prion, a small protein that isn't technically alive.
indent"We can't kill it and we don't know how to stop the transmission," she said.

Shapiro-Hurley said the deer brains and spinal cords must be burned at temperatures of 900 degrees - agencies in the West used military napalm - or chemically digested. She said the state has looked into buying a chemical digester and learned they cost $900,000.

Gov. Scott McCallum has been talking to the federal agriculture officials to find out what federal resources might be available to help the state, a spokeswoman said Friday.
 

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Officials rue inaction on deer disease.

3/16/02

Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal Science reporter

State officials say they wish they had taken stronger measures four years ago when it became apparent that chronic wasting disease could infect Wisconsin deer herds.

Now, with the fatal disease confirmed in three deer in western Dane County, some are calling for an immediate ban on imported elk and deer, which are used mostly as breeding stock on Wisconsin game farms, to slow the spread of the disease. Already, the state Department of Natural Resources estimates as many as 700 deer concentrated around Mount Horeb, or 3 percent to 4 percent of the herd, are infected.

DNR officials were advised in a 1998 staff memorandum that stern measures were warranted even then. Steven Miller, an administrator with the department's land division, learned during a conference that Montana was considering a moratorium on the importation of all game farm animals until an adequate live test for chronic wasting disease was developed (such a test still doesn't exist). That moratorium was put in place in 2000, Montana wildlife officials said, and the disease has yet to show up in wild animals there.

"Based upon what I have learned of this disease," Miller wrote in 1998 to then-DNR Secretary George Meyer, "I agree with Montana and would recommend the same for Wisconsin. At present it appears this would be the only way to help assure the disease does not spread into Wisconsin."
indentNothing came of the recommendation, and some are wondering why.

"You could see this coming," said John Stauber, a Madison writer and author of a book on mad cow disease who turned up the DNR memorandum in an open records search. "Now, we're trying to head off a disaster. ... Everybody is in 'cover-our-butts' mode."

Meyer, interviewed Friday by the Wisconsin State Journal, said he wishes his efforts then to encourage such a transportation ban had been more successful.

A day of reckoning
State wildlife specialists had long feared that chronic wasting disease would one day show up in Wisconsin's wild deer.

Still, when that day came, it was a shock. Sarah Shapiro-Hurley, a DNR administrator and wildlife veterinarian, recalled when the reports on deer tested near Mount Horeb came into the office two weeks ago.
indent"We were like, 'Oh my God, what's happening here?' "

Since then, DNR wildlife specialists have put in many hours of overtime trying to determine how far the disease may have spread. The DNR is recruiting landowners to help kill a sample of 500 deer for testing. At the same time, others, including some state legislators, are wondering whether the DNR and the state Department of Agriculture are doing enough now or should have done more in the past to prevent the arrival and spread of the disease.

Adding fuel to this debate is Miller's 1998 memo. At the time it was written, the state already had been notified that elk from an infected Colorado herd had been shipped into Wisconsin. The memo recommended closing the state's borders to the movement of captive game animals, a possible source of the disease.

From all indications, the questions and the concern are more than warranted. DNR officials aren't hesitating today to use the word "crisis" to describe the situation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture apparently thinks it is; the agency declared chronic wasting disease a national emergency in September.

In other states, the little-understood disease has spurred drastic measures.

In Colorado, as many as 1,500 farm elk from seven ranches are being slaughtered, their carcasses piled up, doused with napalm and burned. At other ranches, elk were spray-painted with neon-orange paint so they can be identified if they escape to the wild. Even here in Wisconsin, actions of the DNR indicate they are expecting the worst; wildlife officials have looked into buying a chemical digester that would be used to destroy deer carcasses.

It's all eerily reminiscent of the outbreak of mad cow disease - a version of chronic wasting disease that affects cattle - in Europe 15 years ago when thousands of animals were destroyed to stem the spread of the illness.

Even worse, a version of mad cow disease spread to humans and more than 100 Europeans have been diagnosed after eating tainted beef. It's the only time researchers know of when such a disease, part of a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, leaped from animals to humans. There is no record of chronic wasting disease spreading to humans, although state health officials are urging caution when it comes to eating venison.

So little is known about the disease that researchers can't say that it won't leap from deer to domestic livestock.

Feeding also a concern
State Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud, R-Eastman, argues that the dangerous and mysterious disease merits a strong response - such as a ban on the transportation of captive elk and deer - from agencies such as the state Department of Agriculture.

Johnsrud also has blasted the DNR for continuing to allow the feeding of deer - a practice that causes deer to congregate and increases the likelihood of the disease spreading from deer to deer. In the last two weeks, Johnsrud introduced legislation that would give the agency the authority to ban feeding. Tom Hauge, director of wildlife management for the DNR, said Friday that the agency probably will recommend such a ban once it has the authority.

More problematic, however, is regulating the movement of captive animals to and from the state's estimated 500 game farms, something the Department of Agriculture seems reluctant to do, Johnsrud said. The agency, which is responsible for regulating game farms, already has the authority to take such a step, he said.

"Ag is not stepping up to the plate," Johnsrud said. "It just escapes me why we would allow traffic from states with chronic wasting disease."
indentBut agriculture officials said the agency has acted responsibly.

Clarence Siroky, the state veterinarian, said the department has had a phone-in permitting system in place for game farms for several years. Under the program, game farm owners have to call the agency to report animals arriving and provide information on where the animals are coming from and where they are going, he said. A separate program requires game farm operators to have a veterinarian certify animals that are transported within Wisconsin.

In addition, a tracking program started initially to check on tuberculosis in the early 1990s also has helped keep tabs on potential chronic wasting disease cases, Siroky said. Through that system, 20 animals that came from farms with infected herds have been tested. None had the disease.

Siroky said the agency has been reluctant to put a moratorium on the transportation of animals because the permitting system allows officials to test animals and keep track of their movement.

Game farmers opposed ban
In the interview Friday, Meyer, who was replaced as secretary last year, called Miller's memorandum a "seminal" document with regard to chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin. Meyer said that after receiving the memo he asked the Department of Agriculture, which regulates game farms, to consider moving forward with more ambitious regulations.

That never happened, although the department organized an advisory committee - made up almost entirely of game farm operators - to meet and discuss chronic wasting disease prevention measures. The committee, according to minutes of the meetings obtained by Stauber, did little more than discuss voluntary measures.

Other wildlife officials agreed that more probably should have been done. Shapiro-Hurley, who worked with Miller on the chronic wasting disease issue in 1998, said she fears that revisiting what happened then may make it more difficult to work cooperatively to combat the disease now that it is here. Nonetheless, she wishes stronger measures had been taken.

"In retrospect," Shapiro-Hurley said Friday, "I think it's possible we could have done more ... but it doesn't do any good to point fingers."

Game farm operators, on the other hand, were adamant in their opposition to a moratorium. In response to Miller's memo, Mike Monson, then the president of the Wisconsin Commercial Deer & Elk Farmer's Association, wrote a letter to Siroky on Sept. 23, 1998, in which he blasted the idea.

"The mention of a moratorium or possibility is not only premature, but shows, in my opinion, that some people in the DNR are out to get us," Monson wrote.

The association argues today that the most likely source of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin is the wild deer herd and not game farm animals, and that a moratorium on the movement of captive animals would have done little good.

In a news release issued last week, the association said voluntary efforts to control chronic wasting disease in domestic herds of elk and deer have been largely successful. The release pointed out that the state is sixth in the nation in the number of samples submitted by game farms for disease testing. And, so far, no game farm animals in Wisconsin have tested positive for the disease, the release said.

Henry Kriegel, a spokesman for the association, added that the group, in light of the discovery of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin, is discussing potential control measures, including regulations on transportation of animals.

"The association in Wisconsin is evaluating that now," Kriegel said.

Johnsrud, meanwhile, continues to call for a moratorium and agrees with Meyer that such a step should have been taken four years ago. It's true, he said, that wildlife researchers can't say for sure where the disease now showing up in Wisconsin deer came from, whether from captive game or from feed piles laced with bone meal supplements, or even from an animal killed in another state and disposed of here.

But it makes sense, Johnsrud said, to take extraordinary steps until we know more. Too much, he said, is at stake.
 

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State seeks help for deer disease.

$14.8M requested from USDA

By Anita Weier, Capital Times

March 19, 2002

Gov. Scott McCallum has requested $14.8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help the state deal with the recent discovery of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin's white-tailed deer herd.

The governor is asking for $1.1 million for salaries and fringe benefits for the 2002 fiscal year, and $1.6 million per fiscal year for 2003 through 2006. He also is requesting $1.3 million for supplies and services in the 2002 fiscal year, and $1.5 million per fiscal year from 2003-2006.

The first-year money would be from emergency funds, and the state is asking for it immediately.

Three deer killed in southwestern Dane County during the gun-deer season in November tested positive for the disease.

The state Department of Natural Resources is working with landowners in the area to better define the scope and extent of infection in the free-ranging deer herd by killing and testing 500 deer within an 11-mile radius of where the infected deer were found.

"The testing of the deer is the first step in the process and we are hopeful that Secretary (Ann) Veneman will release federal funds to assist Wisconsin in this effort," McCallum said.

McCallum's letter notes that the agencies responsible for responding to the disease threat are the departments of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Natural Resources and Health and Family Services.

"These agencies have responsibility to protect the health of domestic animals including captive elk and deer, to ensure that information regarding human risk is current and accurate, to maintain surveillance of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, and to protect the health of the free-ranging wildlife," McCallum wrote.

He summarized the deer sampling efforts and said the state is also interviewing owners of captive deer and elk in the Dane and Iowa counties surveillance area and statewide. Officials also are examining health records and enrolling herds in a chronic wasting disease monitoring program.

"DHFS staff is involved in responding to the concerns of hunters, meat processors, taxidermists and others," McCallum said.

"While the initial response of the three agencies to the finding of CWD in wild deer has been emergency-based, we anticipate that this problem will be with us for a long time. CWD is not, as experience in the Western states has shown us, a short-term problem. We expect to be dealing with CWD and the collateral issues for years to come."
 

coyotebandit

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I'm going hunting on Saturday, a friend of mine has a 480 acre farm outside of the 11 mile circle. The DNR contacted him last week, they asked him to shoot 2 large deer. My hunting land is only about 17 miles from his. Needless to say we are more than just worried about what is going to happen. I'm still trying to recover from the 7 deer I found dead last year, after we harvested 8!
 

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More than a thousand attend session on deer disease.

3/20/02

Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal Science reporter

MOUNT HOREB - Three weeks ago, the mention of something called chronic wasting disease would have left most people scratching their heads.

But that was before three deer turned up in the countryside near here with the little-understood brain disease.

Wednesday night, more than 1,000 people, many of them hunters, jammed into the gymnasium of Mount Horeb High School to try and learn a little more about a disease that makes wildlife specialists very, very nervous.

What people learned was that officials know little more than they do about CWD, part of a family of animal and human illnesses caused by a nearly invincible microscopic protein called a prion.

But representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection did fill the crowd in on what the agencies are doing to find out about the disease and to combat its spread.

Tom Hauge, head of wildlife management for the DNR, said the agency will probably ship Friday the first samples from deer killed in the area to an Iowa lab for testing.

He said landowners have killed about 180 of the 500 deer the agency wants to test for the disease. It will take about a month to get those results back, he added.

The agency has spent about $100,000 on efforts to find out about the disease, Hauge said.

Also, Robert Ehlenfeldt, assistant state veterinarian, said the Agriculture Department will now allow the import of captive elk and deer only from farms that are monitored for CWD and that have been certified free of the disease for five years.

Ehlenfeldt also said the agency is considering tougher restrictions on the import and movement of game farm animals, required testing of all game farm animals that die, and tougher CWD testing requirements.

"Is this enough?" Ehlenfeldt asked. "I don't know for sure. Nobody knows."

Health officials anticipated questions from many in the audience about the potential for people to get sick from CWD-infected venison.

They said pretty much what they've said all along - that there are no cases of CWD causing people to get sick, although a similar disease in cows did leap to humans in Europe 15 years ago and killed more than 100.

State epidemiologist James Kazmierczak said people should avoid eating any meat from animals known to have the disease and should avoid the brains and spinal cords of all deer because that's where the disease-causing prions occur.

He said recent research that turned up prions in the muscles of laboratory mice is a cause for concern. But he said more study is needed.

Kazmierczak said it is reassuring that no cases of the human version of mad cow disease - properly called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - have shown up in America. It is also good news, he added, that CWD, which has been in the United States since the 1970s, has never been known to cause illness in humans.

But, Kazmierczak added, "there are no absolute guarantees."

Many of those who attended the meeting trooped up to a couple of microphones to ask questions later in the evening. They wanted to know about everything from the DNR's sampling program to whether prions can be washed off hunting knives.

Julie Langenberg, a wildlife veterinarian with the DNR, said the results of the sampling the agency is doing in the Mount Horeb area will give wildlife managers an idea of what needs to be done next.

"We don't know," she said, "whether it represents the tip of the iceberg here in Wisconsin or if it is the extent of the problem in the state."

Officials said they weren't surprised by the huge turnout.
indent"This kind of turnout is certainly an indication of the importance of this issue," said Scott Craven, a wildlife ecologist from UW-Madison.
 

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Over 200 deer have been killed inside the DNR's kill zone, lab results pending.  I also heard last week a deer was killed outside of their zone that had all the symptoms of CWD.  Not good!
 

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I went hunting on Saturday for "CWD" deer. The DNR wants to shoot a deer for every section, or 640 acres. We hunted in two different sections, but didn't get anything. The coolest thing I saw was three coyotes at 1:30pm eating on a deer carcass. Too bad I was running them down on the Polaris, instead of the Hornady V-max!!  We did several drives, but we didn't have enough people to cover the thick hills of the 480 acre farm. I sure hope they can do something to slow the spread of this terrible disease. I guess the only good thing is that we didn't come across a bunch of dead deer.
 


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