WI DNR will test deer statewide


Mar 11, 2001
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Jul 2, 2002

DNR will test deer statewide

About 500 from each county to be examined

By Robert Imrie

AP Wausau Bureau

State wildlife officials say they should know by next spring whether any whitetail deer outside of southwest Wisconsin are infected with a fatal brain disease that threatens the state's hunting industry.

The state Department of Natural Resources plans to test at least 40,000 deer shot by hunters this fall in all of Wisconsin's 72 counties for chronic wasting disease. Most of the counties will each contribute about 500 deer. It is the latest move to deal with the disease since it was discovered just west of Madison in late February.

"We are going to be able to a large degree to answer the question that is on a lot of people's minds: Is CWD present elsewhere in the state?" said Tom Hauge, the DNR's wildlife management director.

The disease causes deer to grow thin and die. There is no cure.

Steve Oestreicher, Wisconsin Conservation Congress chairman and a deer hunter for 40 years, said Monday that the statewide disease testing will address many hunters' concerns.

The DNR's recent moves show that deer hunting is big business, and the rest of the country is closely watching how Wisconsin handles the disease, he said.

"If the disease pops up in a pocket here and there, you can contain it. If it shows up all over the state, it would be a disaster, no doubt about it," Oestreicher said. "That will change hunting forever as we know it."
Since 1999, the DNR had tested about 1,000 deer for the disease before discovering it in three bucks shot near Mount Horeb last fall. It was the first time the disease was discovered east of the Mississippi River.

Since then, 500 deer were shot in an unprecedented disease hunt in portions of Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties. Another 15 deer with the disease were found.

Dramatic moves to deal with that discovery have been made in recent months, including a plan to kill all the deer - probably 25,000 - in a 361-square-mile zone near Mount Horeb in an attempt to eradicate the disease from the herd and keep it from spreading.

Last week, the Natural Resources Board voted to ban all artificial deer feeding and baiting.

Earlier this spring, the DNR said it would take several years to do enough testing to determine whether the disease has spread.

"Probably any sane person would attempt to do it over several years but because of the high concern and interest that folks have, we are going to try to get it done this fall," Hauge said Monday.

The state will pay for the testing, which will be several hundred thousand dollars, DNR land administrator Steve Miller said.

The DNR decided to do the statewide testing in one year in part because there will be more capacity in laboratories for the work, Hauge said.

There's six federally approved labs that can do the testing now, and by September there will be 11, with a capacity to test about 500,000 deer annually, he said. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison will handle about 15,000 to 30,000 deer, Hauge said.

The DNR will start gathering samples from deer killed by hunters in October, Hauge said. Each county will have sampling stations.

Wildlife experts said the counties closest to Mount Horeb have the best chance of having deer with the disease, Hauge said.

"But elsewhere in the state, it is anybody's guess," he said. He added there is no evidence it will be found elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified state officials last week that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will limit CWD testing to state and federal laboratories, and no private laboratories will be certified.

The DNR had said about a dozen private companies in Wisconsin were considering getting into the testing business because of the expected demand from hunters worried about the safety of eating the meat.

Veterinarians and state wildlife experts say there's no evidence the disease poses a threat to humans. But the World Health Organization advises people not to eat meat from animals infected with the disease.

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