DNR officials and an advisory team met Tuesday at Chippewa Valley Technical College to discuss chronic wasting disease in Eau Claire County and surrounding counties.
The seven-person committee was created in response to restrictions imposed after a CWD-positive deer was found in the town of Brunswick in March. The affected counties include Eau Claire, Buffalo, Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin and Trempealeau because they are within 10 miles of the positive result, and each county has a representative on the team.
“(CWD is) what we call a prion disease, which is neither a virus nor bacteria,” said Bill Hogseth, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources’ Bureau of Wildlife Management. “It’s a protein-based disease ... it is passed from deer to deer by direct contact, also indirectly by way of bodily fluids, and interestingly it is also passed through the environment.”
CWD affects deer, reindeer, elk and moose by essentially causing holes in their brains, Hogseth said. The concern to humans is the potential effect from eating CWD-positive deer meat.
Although there have been no proven cases of this harming people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization recommend against consuming infected meat.
The meeting included background information on CWD and its prevalence in Wisconsin, a Q&A with a DNR panel of experts, a public comments session and recommendations from the advisory team.
Hogseth said at the meeting the advisory team had three goals they hoped to achieve.
The first was approving a surveillance area. The options were between a circle with a 10-mile radius or an area whose boundaries would be U.S. 10 and Highways 93, 25 and 29.
The advisory team approved the road-boundary surveillance area unanimously.
The next goal was deciding whether the DNR should issue surveillance permits and when they should be issued.
The advisory team voted unanimously in favor of issuing surveillance permits within the focus area. After some deliberation, the committee voted for the permits to start immediately without a decided end date.
The final goal was choosing whether the focus area within the surveillance area should be a circle with a 2-mile radius around the CWD-positive site or another road-boundary area encompassing Highway 85 to Highway H, H to Hemlock Road, Hemlock to Highway 37 and 37 back to Highway 85.
In a unanimous vote, the team approved a focus area with road boundaries.
The DNR has a goal of testing 310 deer in the surveillance area within the next year; these deer will be hunter-harvested, car-killed and sick deer called in by citizens.
“The DNR isn’t going to do this alone. We need guidance from locals,” Hogseth said.
He also said this isn’t a simple problem to fix, as the DNR doesn’t have a “silver bullet” to clear up the issue of CWD in the state. If these goals aren’t met within the year, the DNR and its advisory committee will have to reconvene to discuss future options.
Ray Hansen, of Chetek, who said he has been raising deer for 30 years, voiced his opinion at the meeting.
“CWD is both our problems,” Hansen said. “For me, if I get it, I’m out of business. For you, if you get it, you’re out of deer.”
Hansen said he is concerned about people hunting with their 4-wheelers and pickup trucks in contaminated areas. Because CWD can spread through the environment, he said he was worried about how far the disease can spread when it’s on the tires of these vehicles.
Also at the meeting, Al Brown, the advisory board representative for Chippewa County, was elected as alternate chairman.
The next CWD meeting will be Monday, June 18, when the advisory team will finalize their recommendations; additional options will be considered at this time as well.