CWD Deer Herd Reduction

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Department of Natural Resources Secretary Darrell Bazzell announced today that the department would begin issuing special deer harvest permits during the week of May 6 to landowners to reduce the deer herd within a core area where chronic wasting disease has been documented in western Dane and eastern Iowa Counties. The department is also asking landowners and hunters to join a voluntary ban on deer feeding and deer diet supplements in the CWD-infected area and adjacent management units. The extent of the CWD Core Management Area will be defined based on analysis of sampling results by a CWD Interagency Health and Science team.

Placing food for hunting purposes, or baiting, is only allowed during established hunting seasons. Currently, the DNR has authority to regulate baiting during hunting seasons. Feeding is the practice of placing food on the land outside of hunting seasons or on a year-round basis and is thought to promote spread of chronic wasting disease.

Bazzell noted that upon learning of the presence of CWD in Wisconsin on Feb 28, the DNR quickly reallocated funds and staff to make CWD a top department priority. In addition to issuing the special permits to landowners, DNR and its partners on the CWD Interagency Taskforce - the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and Health and Family Services - have taken a number of steps addressing CWD management. p>Steps taken by the CWD Interagency Task Force include:

  • A 500 deer sample gather more information on the disease in the area
  • Working with the CWD testing laboratory in Ames, Iowa to increase the number of Wisconsin deer tested for CWD
  • Discussions with US Department of Agriculture on creating CWD testing laboratories in Wisconsin
  • Requesting federal funding assistance to finance a CWD control effort
  • Holding an initial public information meeting in the infected area with additional meetings scheduled for May and making up-to-date CWD information available on the Internet
  • Getting venison consumption and human health information out to the public
  • Moving ahead rapidly with developing special hunting season proposals for the fall 2002 hunting season
  • Placing tough new regulations on import of elk and deer to Wisconsin and for testing deer and elk on farms in Wisconsin

"We're not sure if we can beat this thing, but we have set a goal trying to eradicate, and we are not going to retreat from that goal. Reducing the deer herd is our next logical -- though painful -- step. Experts have told us we need to limit deer to deer contacts in order to stop transmission of CWD," Bazzell said.

"I cannot emphasize enough that hunters and landowners hold the keys to dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease. This deer herd belongs to all of us. If we want to have healthy deer and deer hunting in the future, we're going to have to do some hard things now -- open our lands and start the very sad task of drastically reducing deer numbers in the CWD zone," he said.

"We have a series of public meetings scheduled around the state beginning on May 1 to explain to the public why we need to take rapid and what may seem to some, drastic action. But our best chance of getting ahead of this disease is to act swiftly and decisively."

Department staff have conducted four small listening sessions with landowners and hunters within the CWD surveillance area and have heard from those groups that they want quick response and for the DNR to take whatever steps may be necessary to try and curb the spread of the disease if not eradicate it.

In addition to greatly increased hunting, the DNR is asking landowners to voluntarily halt any and all deer feeding practices within the CWD surveillance area and to remove any and all feed already on the land.

"Based on all the advice we?ve received from veterinary experts and wildlife managers here and in western states where the disease has existed in wild herds for over 20 years, stopping feeding is a necessary step in slowing the spread of this disease," said Steve Miller, division of lands director at DNR. Miller noted that DNR is seeking legislative authority to regulate feeding in the state in order to have more tools at its disposal to fight CWD. "In the meantime, we?re asking everyone in the CWD area to pull together with us on this voluntary ban. It's pretty clear that in the CWD management areas, at least, the public is not helping deer by feeding them."

Landowners will be issued permits to take as many deer as they can under this action plan. The landowner may designate other hunters to fill the permit for them. DNR will also provide supplemental shooting assistance to landowners requesting help.

The CWD Interagency Health and Science team is currently analyzing data from a recently completed 500-deer sample and will provide guidance to further define the area the permits cover, the number of permits issued in a given area and possibly desired age and sex of deer shot.

Extensions to the fall hunting season are being developed and may go the Natural Resources Board as early as that group?s May meeting. Secretary Bazzell has indicated that any state-owned lands within the CWD area will be included in the finalized herd reduction plan.

More information and an opportunity to comment on CWD management proposals via the Internetcan can be found on the CWD Web page on the DNR Web site.