Some hunters in West Central Wisconsin will be required to have their deer tested for chronic wasting disease during the entire nine-day gun deer season Nov. 23 to Dec. 1.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has decided to implement the Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team recommendation requiring mandatory CWD testing in a six-township area surrounding the locations where deer have previously tested positive for the disease.
The DNR will also implement mandatory in-person registration for deer harvested during the first Saturday and Sunday of the nine-day gun deer season. The Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team recommended requiring in-person deer registration for the first three days of the nine-day gun season during the group’s July 16 meeting.
The DNR will release more details about requirements of hunters and sampling locations as the season draws near.
“The approach that we are taking is a prime example of the department working closely with citizens and the hunting community to address the challenges associated with the spread of CWD,” DNR Assistant Deputy Secretary Todd Ambs said in a news release. “We must all work together to stop the spread of this deadly disease are therefore following the citizens lead in this area.”
The DNR is requiring CWD testing of adult deer during the nine-day deer gun season in a six-township area covering parts of Dunn, Eau Claire and Pepin counties. This includes the towns of Rock Creek, Brunswick, Washington, Albany, Drammen, and Pleasant Valley.
Hunters who kill deer in those towns outside the nine-day gun deer season as well as hunters who harvest deer outside those towns during any of the 2019 seasons should continue to use online and phone deer registration options.
The mandatory testing is in response to the recommendations received in July from the Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team for surveillance and management options in response to the detection of chronic wasting disease in western Eau Claire County. There will also be in-person registration of harvested deer during opening weekend of gun season in the same six township area. The testing is anticipated for this season only to complete disease surveillance goals carried over from the 2018 disease detection surveillance in this region of the state.
The Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team is an ad-hoc advisory team made up of representatives of County Deer Advisory Councils for Eau Claire, Buffalo, Chippewa, Dunn, Pepin and Trempealeau Counties. The team was formed in response to the CWD-positive wild deer that was discovered in Eau Claire County in March of 2018. The purpose of the team is to serve as an advisory body to the department regarding local CWD surveillance and management.
CWD is a contagious neurological disease of deer, elk and moose that is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. These prions cause brain degeneration in infected animals and lead to extreme weight loss, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. Testing for CWD can only be performed after the animal’s death.
As in previous years, CWD sampling will be offered at various locations throughout the state. Options for CWD sampling include both in-person service as well as self-service options. CWD surveillance efforts focus on testing adult deer, since older deer are more likely to test positive for the disease, according to the DNR. For their convenience, the DNR recommends hunters contact staffed sampling stations in advance to verify hours of operation.
Hunters in areas not affected by the CWD testing requirement will continue to register their deer either online or by phone. They also have the option of registering electronically at a participating walk-in registration station.
Sportsmen want efforts expanded
A DNR news conference Sept. 3 on CWD issues in Wisconsin also included a group of influential sportsmen who want Wisconsin wildlife officials to do more to educate people about the disease, help deer hunters dispose of carcasses and make CWD testing easier.
Conservation Congress Chairman Larry Bonde made the remarks during a joint news conference DNR officials. The event was designed to draw attention to the department’s efforts to address the disease as the fall hunting seasons approach.
Gov. Tony Evers, who controls the department, hasn’t offered any new CWD strategies. The governor has said he wants to see if research conducted in other states yields breakthroughs.
“Everybody would love to see CWD go away,” DNR board member Greg Kazmierski told reporters. “That’s not going to happen. All we can do is manage the disease until the science comes through.”
Bonde said a Conservation Congress committee reviewed the department’s CWD plan and came up with a number of ways to improve it without changing state law or DNR administrative rules. Chief among them: get more information about the disease to the public.
He said every DNR employee that comes into contact with the public, from wardens to foresters, should carry CWD brochures to hand out to people. The committee also recommended meat processers distribute the brochures and the department include them with every license sold. The department also needs to streamline its website so CWD data is more easily accessible, he said.
“The department has a lot of very valuable information,” Bonde said. “However, for some reason it’s not always getting in the right places, in the right hands. You always hear the story about three clicks and out and a lot of times the really good information takes about 10 clicks to get to it.”
The committee recommended the department expand a program that places dumpsters across the state to make it easier for hunters to dispose of carcasses, eliminating the chance of prions spreading.
The panel went on to suggest the DNR increase the number of unmanned kiosks where hunters can drop off tissue samples for testing. The department also should consider selling self-sampling kits and teaching people how to use them through social media websites such as YouTube.
Wisconsin law established the Conservation Congress as the DNR’s citizen advisory group, giving it a tremendous amount of clout with the department. DNR Wildlife Management Bureau Acting Director Tami Ryan promised the department would consider the recommendations.
Testing goal increased
Ryan noted that the agency hopes to collect 21,000 samples this fall, with an intense effort to test in the state’s 18 northernmost counties. The department got 17,000 samples last year.
The department hopes to increase the number of dumpsters and kiosks, Ryan said, in part by intensifying efforts to find volunteers willing to share costs with the department.
She added that the department is developing a smartphone app that will show dumpster and kiosk locations. The department also is currently building its own testing facility at the state game farm in Poynette.
Baiting and feeding bans went into effect in Burnett, Barron, Polk and Washburn counties on Sunday after an elk on a Barron County game farm tested positive for CWD, Ryan said.
“The department has been diligently working on CWD,” Kazmierski said. “Except nobody knows about it.”
The deer bow and crossbow season begins Sept. 14. The gun season for disabled hunters and youth hunters begin Oct. 5.
For a list of businesses offering walk-in registration, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “registration stations.”
For more information regarding where to take a deer for sampling, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keywords “CWD sampling” or contact local DNR wildlife management staff.
The Country Today contributed to this report.