Wisconsin officials meet to discuss CWD

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Posted Mar. 27, 2002

State officials meet on deadly deer disease

By Kevin Naze, Green Bay Press-Gazette correspondent

State Natural Resources Board members got a tour of Wisconsin’s chronic wasting disease command center in Dodgeville on Tuesday and will hear more about the deadly disease at its meeting in Madison today.

“There’s a lot of concern,” said Dan Poulson of Palmyra, board member and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation president.

“Wisconsin has a great reputation with our farm animal health and our wildlife. I hope we can get to the bottom of this soon.”

Though the federation has had a long-standing policy opposing baiting and feeding of deer, bureau lobbyist Paul Zimmerman said it took disease concerns — bovine tuberculosis in Michigan and chronic wasting disease here — to force a public statement.

“We have to cut deer numbers in half, and we need to take a look at banning or severely limiting deer baiting and feeding,” Zimmerman said.

A Farm Bureau Federation news release last week said the state must drastically reduce the deer population and ban feeding and baiting of deer to protect the health of wild animals and domestic livestock.

“Hunters aren’t the problem, they’re part of the solution,” Zimmerman said Tuesday. “We need them to seriously knock back deer numbers in this state. However, too much bait or food attracts too many deer and increases the risk of disease transmission.”

Natural Resources Board member Herb Behnke of Shawano said it’s not likely the board will consider statewide changes to deer baiting and feeding rules at its meeting today but would likely vote soon on an emergency rule banning the practices in and around areas where diseased deer are found.

Any attempt for a statewide ban would raise the interest of farmers, feed mill owners and others who buy or sell corn, apples and mineral blocks meant to attract deer.

Poulson said there are about 1,000 feed mills in the state.

While many of the mills sell deer-feeding products, Zimmerman said the threat of disease transmission to domestic livestock should be a bigger concern.

“Farming is at least a $15 billion industry,” he said. “When you take the value-added figure, things like using milk to make cheese or using corn to make ethanol, it’s a $40 billion business.”

Chronic wasting disease was discovered in three deer shot in Dane County in November. The state announced the test results Feb. 28.

The neurologic disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die.

Earlier this month, the Department of Natural Resources decided to test 500 more deer in western Dane and eastern Iowa counties. As of Monday, 313 deer had been killed by landowners and on Tuesday, the DNR said state-authorized shooting teams were authorized to assist cooperating landowners. Meanwhile, an animal health protection bill passed recently gives the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection expanded resources to protect the state from importing animal diseases.

State Sen. Kevin Shibilski, D-Stevens Point, who introduced the bill, said the greatest threat to the health of Wisconsin animals — captive or wild — is the importation of animals that are infected with contagious diseases.

Wisconsin had 610 captive whitetail deer farms and 372 farm-raised cervid operations last year, including 272 with elk.

What’s next
The state Natural Resources Board is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. today in Room 027 of the State Natural Resources Building, 101 S. Webster St., Madison.

Vote online

Has the discovery of chronic wasting disease changed your mind about eating venison?

As of Tuesday, 61 percent of those voting through an online poll said they will continue to eat venison. You can register your vote through Saturday at www.wisconsinfarmreport.com.

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Mar. 27, 2002

DNR says sharpshooters to help landowners kill deer

The Associated Press

DODGEVILLE — Four teams of state sharpshooters were formed to help landowners kill the remaining 180 whitetail deer needed in an unprecedented hunt to find out how far a fatal brain disease has infected the herd, wildlife experts said Tuesday.

Each team will consist of a shooter and a spotter, said Carl Batha, a wildlife biologist helping to coordinate the hunt for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Using wildlife agents to kill the deer is the latest evidence of the state’s urgency in finding out how widespread chronic wasting disease is in the herd.

All four shooting teams were asked to take to the fields and woods late Tuesday, DNR spokesman Bob Manwell said.

Landowners in a 415-square-mile section of Dane and Iowa counties have killed 323 of the 500 deer needed for the brain tests, he said. Some landowners have found it difficult to shoot a deer.

The special hunt was ordered after three whitetail bucks shot last November near Mount Horeb had chronic wasting disease. The state announced the test results Feb. 28, and the spring hunt began March 14.

It was the first time the disease was found in wild deer east of the Mississippi River.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of deer, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die.

The state hopes each team of sharpshooters can kill between two and four deer each day, Manwell said.

“We have never done this before so we are kind of curious to see how efficient they can be,” he said. “We are providing assistance to the landowners. It is still under their control. They are the holder of the permits.”

The eight members of the state’s shooting teams are experienced deer hunters, Manwell said.

They scout a location during the day and establish a shooting position based on where landowners indicate the deer routinely travel, Manwell said.

More shooting teams could be formed later that could include agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, he said.

The DNR hopes the remaining 180 deer can be killed by Monday, Manwell said.

The hunt would have to end by April 10, when spring turkey hunting begins.

The DNR needs the test results from the 500 deer to determine what to do next to deal with chronic wasting disease.

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WISC Channel3000.com    

Tuesday March 26

CWD: Is Meat Safe?

Deer hunting and processing is a $1.5 billion-a-year industry in Wisconsin. Meat processors and the state want to make sure concerns about chronic wasting disease are answered.

Meanwhile, processors such as the Village Meat Market continue to pack meat.

"We've got a couple phone calls but nothing serious," owner Dennis Heimann said. "It sure made me think and to watch it more closely to see how widespread it is and to see what's going to be done."

When it comes down to being clean, most processors keep up with standards, News 3 reported.

But with CWD, processors wonder what new precautions are coming from the state regulators.

"You're going to do the right thing, and I think most people are going to do the right thing," Heimann said.

The "right thing" isn't a new thing though. Some states have dealt with CWD for years -- particularly in the West, in Colorado and Wyoming.

Wisconsin is looking there for advice on cutting out the sick animals from the herd and making sure the danger is eliminated from the butcher block.

"Venison processing in Wisconsin is a big business and processors are going to be concerned about it," said Terry Burkhardt, Meat Safety and Inspection Bureau director.

Heimann said he'd do whatever it takes, even if it means changing the way deer meat is processed, like not cutting into bones or into the brain of the deer.

"My friends shop here, my family shops here, my in-laws shop here. They come buy roasts right out of the counter and invite me over for dinner. So I'm eating the same thing my customers are eating so I'm not taking a chance," Heimann said.

State Agriculture Department officials told News 3 they aren't sure what new precautions processors might take. It will wait on that until tests from the special deer hunt come back, but said the steps, if any, would be in place by fall 2002.
 

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