|By KEVIN WALKER
MADISON, Wis. — An audit that details Wisconsin’s efforts to eradicate chronic wasting disease (CWD) was made public earlier this month, and it concludes that the state’s aggressive approach to the problem has thus far failed.
According to the audit, “DNR’s efforts to eradicate CWD in the free-ranging deer population have not been effective.”
“The audit documents that despite significant state efforts, the wild deer herd remains abundant in the CWD-infected areas and the prevalence of the disease has not decreased,” said Scott Hassett, secretary of the state DNR in a letter responding to the report.
“It is very clear that CWD is not going to be eradicated in wild deer herds in the near future,” he said. “Surveys repeatedly show that Wisconsinites don’t want CWD to spread in our state. Your audit report challenges us to find additional disease management tools that are effective at containing CWD. This won’t be easy.”
CWD has been found in 651 deer in Wisconsin since the first positive finding in 2002, out of more than 100,000 deer tested so far. The audit’s facts and findings include the following:
•Through fiscal year 2005-06, Wisconsin spent $32.3 million to try and deal with CWD.
•The DNR relies primarily on hunters to kill deer in areas known to be CWD endemic, which are the south central and southeastern portions of the state.
•Deer hunting license sales have not returned to pre-CWD levels.
•After bagging a deer, hunters had to wait 51.8 days on average to find out if their deer tested positive for CWD, as part of the state’s effort to ensure hunter-harvested venison is healthy.
•Wisconsin’s aggressive approach to CWD eradication has been more expensive than less aggressive approaches in other states.
Although CWD hasn’t been linked to human illness, no one knows for sure that it can’t be transmitted to people; therefore, officials advise hunters to avoid consuming CWD-infected venison.
Wisconsin’s approach to eradicating CWD has included efforts to decrease its large deer population. It has, therefore, increased the length of deer hunting seasons, required hunters to shoot a doe before shooting a buck, established and enforced a ban on baiting and feeding deer in 26 counties, and offered money rewards and other incentives to hunters.
The state has also used sharpshooters to kill deer. This method accounted for 5.2 percent of deer kills in the 2004 and 2005 hunting seasons.
In addition to its efforts to control CWD in wild herds, state officials have tested 14,654 farm-raised deer and taken action where CWD was found. The state has worked with the deer farm industry to implement comprehensive health monitoring regulations. The disease has not appeared in any of Farm World’s coverage area except Illinois, where 148 deer have tested positive for CWD.
The disease was long thought to be limited in the wild to a relatively small area in northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska, but it has recently been found in new areas of these states.
It has also been found in wild deer and elk in western South Dakota, and wild deer in south central New Mexico, northeastern and central Utah, central New York, northeast West Virginia, Kansas and west and south central Saskatchewan, in addition to Wisconsin and Illinois. Also, a CWD positive moose has recently been found in the endemic area of Colorado.
The disease also has been diagnosed on commercial game farms in Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Kansas, New York, Saskatchewan and Alberta, in addition to Wisconsin. Indiana places severe restrictions on the importation of deer carcasses. Details on these restrictions can be found online at www.in.gov/boah
Hunters wanting to import a deer carcass from a known CWD endemic area into Michigan “are restricted to bringing only deboned meat, antlers, antlers attached to a skull cap cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue, hides cleaned of excess tissue or blood, upper canine teeth or a finished taxidermist mount.”
In Ohio, on the other hand, hunters are only “encouraged” to “bone out the meat and remove all fat and connective tissue before returning to Ohio” once they kill a deer out-of-state.
For more details on Wisconsin’s CWD audit, go online at www.dnr.state.wi.us
This farm news was published in the Nov. 29, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.