A buck stands in the woods in the town of Seymour in November 2017.

The Department of Natural Resources will not require hunters in the Chippewa Valley to have their deer tested for chronic wasting disease during the nine-day gun season this fall after all but is still asking for volunteer testing.

Following additional consideration and recommendations from the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board during the September meeting, the DNR said Wednesday that mandatory in-person registration and sampling within a five-town area covering parts of Eau Claire, Dunn and Pepin counties will not be required of hunters during the Nov. 23-Dec. 1 gun deer season. The five-town area includes Rock Creek, Albany, Brunswick, Drammen and Pleasant Valley.

The DNR last month announced support for a recommendation by the Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team to implement mandatory in-person registration and CWD sampling within the five-town area.

The 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.

Dave Zielke, chairman of the Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team, said the reversal seems like “kind of a slap in the face” to the team that came up with the recommendation for mandatory testing.

“As a group, we’re disappointed because we felt this might give us a chance to get an adequate sample in the area,” Zielke said. “It’s kind of shooting this whole effort in the foot.”

The goal of proposing mandatory testing was to get a scientifically adequate sample size to make a reasonable assessment of the percentage of deer affected by a disease that could threaten future deer hunting in Wisconsin if it goes unchecked, he said, noting that voluntary testing last year fell well short of the target level.

The DNR, however, expressed optimism that it will still obtain an adequate sample size.

“We will have a robust presence in the area,” said Scott Loomans, DNR division administrator for the fish, wildlife and parks program, in a statement. “Because we will make it easy for people to reach us, we believe this voluntary approach will still result in the number of samples that are needed.”

Although mandatory CWD sampling and in-person registration are no longer required in Rock Creek, Albany, Brunswick, Drammen and Pleasant Valley, the DNR strongly encourages hunters to have any adult deer harvested within those five towns tested for CWD this fall. If a hunter submits any adult deer for CWD sampling that tests positive, they will receive a replacement deer tag.

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.

In addition to having a network of CWD cooperators and self-serve kiosks available for hunters throughout the fall, DNR staff will be conducting some in-person sampling on the opening weekend of the gun deer season at the following three locations within the five-township area: Pleasant Valley Town Hall, Highway W, Eleva; Welcome Matt Bar, W3530 Highway 37, Eau Claire; and Rock Creek Town Hall, N995 Highway H, Mondovi.