Wisconsin DNR charged $122 per deer for incineration

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Aug. 23, 2002

DNR says deer cost $122 each to incinerate

By ROBERT IMRIE

Associated Press

MARSHFIELD — The state is spending $122 to incinerate each deer killed this summer in an area of southern Wisconsin where a fatal brain disease has been discovered in the deer herd, a crowd of meat processors was told Thursday.

Doris Olander, a wildlife veterinarian with the Department of Natural Resources, said that expense compares to $4.90 per deer to bury the animal in a landfill, as was done after a disease surveillance hunt in the spring.

But the landfill no longer will take the deer because of concerns about the disease, and incineration is considered the only way to destroy the proteins that cause it.

Olander was one of several speakers at a forum held by the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors. About 350 people filled an auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield campus for the forum.

Olander said no decision has been made yet on how to dispose of about 25,000 deer the DNR wants killed to try to eradicate chronic wasting disease from the herd. Bids for various disposal methods are being evaluated, and a decision could be made next week.

“None of this is cheap,” said Tom Hauge, DNR wildlife administrator.

The butchers were concerned about whether their bones and meat byproducts of butchering deer this fall will be picked up by rendering companies.

One processor said he won’t butcher deer if he can’t get rid of the byproducts. Another said a solution would be to allow the hunter to dispose of the bones.

Scott Steinbrink of Berlin-based National By-Products said his company intends to continue to pick up venison byproducts “until we’re told we can’t sell our material.”

DNR wildlife supervisor Andy Nelson said the agency hopes to use meat processors to collect 25,000 to 30,000 deer heads this fall across the state so they can be tested for chronic wasting disease. Another 20,000 deer heads will be collected at deer registration stations, he said.

Larry Clark, owner of the Lodi Sausage Co. in Lodi and a spokesman for the Meat Processors Association, said there are many fears regarding chronic wasting disease, but he expects most plants will butcher deer this fall.

Butchers will take extra precautions, including deboning the meat, Clark said.

When processors at the forum were asked whether they plan to butcher deer this fall, only three or four hands went up indicating they were not. About a dozen said they were undecided.

Hauge said meat processors have a key role to play in making sure hunters aren’t scared away from going into the fields and woods this fall.

“Hunters look to you as experts. They look to you for reassurance,” he told the butchers.

The DNR announced in February that chronic wasting disease was found in three bucks shot near Mount Horeb, in south central Wisconsin, marking the first time it had been found east of the Mississippi River.

Since then, it has been found in 21 more deer among those killed in the area surrounding Mount Horeb in an attempt to determine the extent of the disease in the herd.

The DNR has launched a plan aimed at eliminating all the deer in a 374 square mile area, while also doing much more sample testing of deer killed by hunters throughout the state this fall.

Some venison processors have already said they won’t risk cutting into deer killed by hunters this fall because of the disease.

Experts say there is no scientific evidence chronic wasting disease can infect humans, but the World Health Organization advises people not to eat any part of a deer with evidence of the disease.

Each fall, Wisconsin hunters kill 400,000 to 500,000 deer from a herd that last fall was estimated at 1.6 million animals.

Dennis Buege, a UW-Madison meat specialist, said the state regulates about 300 meat plants. Each plant butchers from 200 to 2,000 deer each year, and for many plants venison is a key part of their business.

Some shops will stop butchering venison, but it’s too soon to know how many, Buege said.

A fact sheet for processors warns people to avoid cutting into a head or backbone of a deer and into a deer that looks diseased or disoriented, Buege said.

Abnormal versions of proteins — called prions — are the source of the disease. They accumulate in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. The disease causes deer to grow thin, act abnormal and die. There is no cure.
 

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