DNR, conservationists fight mad deer

By: - September 5, 2019 3:49 pm
white tailed deer buck with antlers

White tailed deer (photo by skeeze from Pixabay)

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is uniting with the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Natural Resources Board to address the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Wisconsin’s white-tailed deer.

The new push will in part focus on educating the public on the disease, and streamline the testing and disposal of dead deer. “We are unified in our interests in responding to and managing CWD,” said Assistant Deputy DNR Secretary Todd Ambs in a press release. “We look forward to working in collaboration and partnership to slow the spread of CWD.”

Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal neurological disease found in cervids such as deer, elk, moose, and reindeer. Infected animals develop abnormal proteins called prions in muscles and neural tissue. Afflicted animals can be recognized by dramatic weight loss, stumbling, and a kind of listless apathy uncharacteristic in normally spry, wary creatures like deer. It can take between 18 and 24 months before an infected deer starts to outwardly show symptoms.

CWD is sometimes compared to so-called Mad Cow Disease, another prion disorder which affects behavior. Last year, concerns that CWD could jump to humans spurred headlines warning of “zombie deer disease.

Reports by the Canadian Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Food Directorate, and other organizations warned that CWD has the potential to jump to humans. Though no cases have been documented of CWD transfer to humans through infected meat, government agencies remain cautious.

Wisconsin’s DNR provides a variety of testing options, including self-service kiosks for hunters. There’s also an Adapt-A-Kiosk program for individuals or groups to help increase the testing range. Some 56 Wisconsin counties have been affected by CWD, with some showing lowering numbers of infected deer. Washburn County, for example, has reported zero detected cases since 2011.

Some of the recommendations were suggested by the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. “We feel the DNR and partners should keep expanding the kiosk program and keep working on decreasing the turnaround time on samples,” said WCC Chairman Larry Bonde.

“The cooperation of hunters and private businesses is vital to the success of these programs,” said acting director of the DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management Tami Ryan in a press release. “DNR staff thank all those who continue to assist with CWD surveillance and deer carcass waste disposal.” Ryan said the programs, “provide an opportunity for conservation groups or individuals to assist with CWD surveillance and reduce the risk of disease spread.”


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.