Program to Pay for CWD Positive Deer

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Landowners and hunters in the approximately 1,150 square mile chronic wasting disease intensive harvest zone/disease eradication zone will be sent a total of $400 for each CWD-positive deer harvested in 2003-2004 archery and gun deer seasons in a reward plan announced today by DNR Secretary Scott Hassett, Sen. Bob Welch and Whitetails Unlimited, Inc., Sturgeon Bay.

Any dollars remaining in the $250,000 reward fund would be paid out at $20 a deer among all hunters registering deer from the intensive harvest zone (IHZ) and disease eradication zone (DEZ). A lottery would be used if the number of registered deer exceeds the remaining fund at the end of the hunting seasons.

“A cash reward to harvest deer was the most popular suggestion we heard from landowners in a series of public meetings we conducted in 2002,” said Tom Hauge, DNR director of wildlife management. “It also presented the greatest difficulty to start up and has taken nearly a year to organize but now we’re ready to go with this program.”

Considered a pilot project in its first year, the reward program, if successful, may be continued if funding is available in future years. Roughly $200,000 of the fund will come from chronic wasting disease operating budgets and $50,000 from an anonymous donor who first contacted Senator Bob Welch (R-Redgranite).

“The CWD disease is too big a problem for one agency to solve, and it will take collaborations like this between the DNR, sporting groups like Whitetails Unlimited, and the private sector to eradicate the disease in Wisconsin,” said Welch. “The program unveiled today is a great example of how to work together to fight CWD.”

Whitetails Unlimited, Inc. (WTU) will administer the fund, coordinate payments and conduct the random drawing, if necessary. In 2002, WTU sponsored a reward program that gave out $10,000 in savings bonds to 100 hunters drawn at random from those hunters who provided the heads of their animals for CWD testing. A strong supporter of deer research and education, WTU also financed numerous CWD research/educational efforts and has taken a leading role in combating the disease.

“Whitetails Unlimited views the reward plan as a token of appreciation for program participants truly focused on controlling the spread of CWD. Our number one goal is to preserve the long-term health of Wisconsin’s white-tailed deer population,” stated Peter J. Gerl, executive director for the organization.

Significantly reducing wild deer populations in areas where chronic wasting disease has been found is necessary if the disease is to be eradicated, according to animal health and veterinary experts from Wisconsin and across the nation. The population goal for the 964 square mile disease eradication zone is as close to zero as possible. Most land in the area is privately owned with hunting access controlled by the landowner.

In a series of town hall style meetings held in 2002, area landowners told wildlife managers what they felt was needed to help them accomplish such a huge population reduction. In addition to liberal hunting seasons, free permits and deer tags, some kind of a reward plan was high on everyone’s list.

The DNR has been contacting landowners in a door to door effort to answer questions, enlist support and cooperation, explain the department’s CWD management plan and share the best science and facts about chronic wasting disease. Landowners in the disease eradication zone (DEZ) can request a free permit allowing them and any legally qualified hunter they designate to hunt on their property without buying a deer hunting license. Deer hunting bag limits in the DEZ are unlimited and the landowner will receive two buck tags with the free permit.

The reward plan announced today will pay a landowner $200 and the hunter $200 for each CWD-positive deer taken from the landowner’s property. The deer will be tested by the state at no charge and the hunter may keep the venison or leave the carcass with DNR for disposal. Hunters would also receive $200 for a CWD-positive deer harvested on state-owned land in the intensive harvest or disease eradication zones.

The $20 per registered deer reward applies to deer shot on public or private property in the disease eradication and intensive harvest zones and will be paid directly to the hunter. Payments to individual hunters will be made up to the limit of the fund after the initial $400 dollar payments are made for any CWD-positive deer.