Chronic wasting disease plan update

CWD infected deer in Iowa County field in 2016, photo courtesy of WIDNR, March 5, 2018 (WLUK)

SHAWANO COUNTY (WLUK) -- A plan to help manage a deadly deer disease in our state is getting an update.

The Department of Natural Resources and other groups are reviewing their long-range plan to combat chronic wasting disease.

An eight point buck makes its way through a field in Shawano County, and just to the north in Oconto County, a doe scampers across the snow-covered road. Deer managers say deer health in Northeast Wisconsin is good.

"We've got some of the highest deer harvest densities which are driven by some of the highest deer population densities in the state," said Jeff Pritzl, DNR District Wildlife Supervisor.

But Pritzl says everything could change if chronic wasting disease was found.

"What it ends up doing is causing holes in the nervous system. That's what causes the animal to essentially waste away," he said.

CWD is found in or adjacent to 47 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. The DNR says the disease is highly contagious, so a baiting and feeding ban is in place for many areas of the state.

The DNR CWD response plan went into effect in 2010, and is reviewed every five years. Pritzl says a new item centers around hunters moving deer carcasses.

"By bringing an animal from an area where it's positive to an area where if we don't have the disease yet," he said.

Another issue is farm-raised deer, and controlling the spread of CWD. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has authority over deer farms.

"We have a proposed rule that would require them to have either a double fence, or an electric fence so that we would reduce any risk of nose-to nose contact," said Dr. Paul McGraw, Wisconsin State Veterinarian, DATCP.

Deer biologists say there are no confirmed cases of CWD in the wild in Northeast Wisconsin.

"So, it's incumbent upon us if we're going to manage that deer population, to do so at a responsible level, that minimizes the chance of CWD becoming the equalizer down the road," said Pritzl.

Any changes to the current CWD plan need legislative approval.

Public hearings on the proposals could be scheduled this summer.

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