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Kristin Braziunas fills out paperwork last November while Paul Boehnlein prepares the young buck and doe shot by Braziunas for testing for chronic wasting disease at the sampling site behind the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources office in Fitchburg.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff will collect deer heads for chronic wasting disease surveillance testing during the nine-day gun deer hunting season that begins Saturday.

CWD has been detected in four wild deer from Eau Claire County since fall 2017, including a mature buck killed in October.

The DNR and the Chippewa Valley CWD Advisory Team strongly encourage hunters who kill adult deer in Buffalo, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin and Trempealeau counties to submit a sample from the deer for CWD testing at sampling locations in those counties. The testing is free to hunters and anyone submitting a sample should receive test results within two weeks.

CWD is a contagious, fatal 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.

The health of the deer herd relies on cooperation from hunters, as managing CWD begins with knowing where the disease exists and that knowledge is dependent on obtaining a robust sample size, the DNR says.

“We’re grateful for hunters making that extra effort to have their deer sampled for CWD, and to support them we continue to make access to sampling simpler, faster and easier each year,” Tami Ryan, the agency’s acting Wildlife Management Bureau director, said in a news release. “Each deer sample is important because it contributes to an accurate understanding of the health of Wisconsin’s deer herd.”

DNR staff will be available to provide in-person sampling assistance from 3 to 7 p.m. on the Saturday and Sunday of the gun deer season’s opening weekend at the following four locations in the surveillance area surrounding the Eau Claire site where CWD-positive deer have been found:

• Eau Claire DNR Service Center, 1300 W. Clairemont Ave.

• Pleasant Valley Town Hall, S10414 Highway HH/I, Eleva.

• Welcome Matt Bar, W3530 Highway 37, Eau Claire.

• Rock Creek Town Hall, N995 Highway H, Mondovi.

“One of the more prevalent sampling setbacks we’ve heard in the past is that the data sheet hunters need to fill out at the kiosk is complicated. These are things the average person doesn’t look at on a daily basis,” said Jess Carstens, a wildlife biologist in the Eau Claire DNR office. “We’ll be at those staffed sites to get them in an out faster and make sure the information is correct.”

To reward people for taking part in the voluntary sampling program, DNR staff plan to pass out vouchers from area sporting goods stores to participants, Carstens added.

In addition, hunters also can have their deer sampled at a network of self-service kiosks open around the clock across the state. Those sites are listed on the DNR’s website, dnr.wi.gov, and can be found by using the search keyword “CWD sampling.” Three dozen sites are listed in the six-county area.

A limited number of CWD self-sampling kits, including instructions and a prepaid return envelope, are available at the DNR’s Eau Claire office during regular business hours.

A sample consists of the deer head with 3 to 5 inches of neck attached. Hunters will need to have their harvest authorization number, harvest location and contact information when submitting a sample.

The agency also is urging hunters to dispose of deer carcass waste in a licensed landfill that accepts such waste or in a specially designated dumpster. The dumpster locations are listed on the DNR website.

If a municipality allows deer disposal curbside or at a transfer station, the carcass should be double bagged.

The DNR also encourages hunters to report sick deer to its customer service hotline at 800-847-9367 and reminds them that deer baiting and feeding are banned in a majority of state counties, including Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn, Buffalo, Pepin, Trempealeau and Barron counties in west-central Wisconsin.