Wisconsin Seeks Input on CWD Tainted Farm
Neighbors and others interested in the deer farm formerly known as Buckhorn Flats are invited to a public meeting on the future of the property, now owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The open house meeting will run 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 28, in the auditorium at the Almond-Bancroft School at 1336 Elm Street in Almond. Background on the property, now called the Almond Deer Farm, will be provided, and the public is invited to ask questions and offer input on the management of the site.
The first case of CWD, or chronic wasting disease, among Wisconsin farm-raised deer was discovered on this property in September 2002. CWD, which affects deer and elk, is a contagious and always fatal brain disease for which there is no cure. The discovery of CWD on this property led to the depopulation of the entire deer herd on the farm.
In the end, 82 of the deer killed and removed tested positive for CWD. This is an 80 percent infection rate, the highest rate of CWD infection recorded in North America, and possibly in the world.
The property is located along the east side of 3rd Street, about one mile north and west of the Village of Almond in Portage County. The DNR purchased the 80-acre property this past spring for $465,000. There are 25 acres of cropland and 55 acres of woodland. About 65 acres are fenced, the area previously used as a deer farm. The property includes a single-family residence and a storage shed located outside of the fence.
Research indicates prions, proteins associated with the disease, can persist in soil for a minimum of three years and perhaps much longer. Prions that cause scrapie, a CWD-like disease in sheep and goats, have remained available and infectious for up to 16 years. DNR officials believe there is an unacceptable risk that CWD prions would infect wild white-tailed deer around this site if the fences would be removed. Since the previous owners were selling the property, and there is no continuing obligation to maintain the fence, wildlife officials concluded the best available option was to acquire the property.
Similar if less acute concerns exist for all nine deer farms in Wisconsin that have tested positive for CWD. Because the question of how long a contaminated site is a risk to deer is of national and international interest there will be a number of opportunities for research at the Almond farm.
Plans include building a second fence, if funding is available, to provide a secondary barrier and further reduce the risk of disease transmission to the wild deer herd. In addition, DNR officials must decide whether to maintain ownership of the house and lot.
The primary reason for DNR purchase of the property is to ensure that the deer fence remains intact, preventing wild deer from accessing the property and becoming infected. The DNR has an ethical and financial responsibility to maintain the fences until science offers a solution for assessing the risk or remediating the site. The fence will be inspected frequently.