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Wisconsin DNR Ramps Up Effort to Control Chronic Wasting Disease

Thousands of deer have been destroyed over the last 17 years when they displayed symptoms of chronic wasting disease. (Steve/StockSnap)
Thousands of deer have been destroyed over the last 17 years when they displayed symptoms of chronic wasting disease. (Steve/StockSnap)
September 4, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – Eighteen counties in northern Wisconsin will be the focus for chronic wasting disease surveillance this year.

Deer-hunting season starts in less than two weeks for archery and crossbow hunters, and they're being asked to be on the lookout for signs of chronic wasting disease in deer.

The state Department of Natural Resources is forming a partnership with the Wisconsin Conservation Congress in its effort to control the fatal brain disease.

Greg Kazmierski, vice chairman of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, said there is no cure for CWD right now.

"All we can do is manage the disease until science comes through," he said.

CWD sampling sites will be offered at several locations in the state. Hunters are being reminded that the testing is being done on adult deer, because older animals are more likely to test positive. Kazmierski said disposal of infected deer carcasses is very important.

The neurological disorder in infected deer results in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. Kazmierski said there are two major questions to be answered: How many of the abnormal proteins, called "prions," that cause CWD must be consumed through food to infect the animal? And how is it transferred to other deer?

"There's a perception out that one prion and you're going to be infected," he said. "That's not really known yet, and we still don't know how it's transmitted in the wild."

The DNR is making chronic wasting disease testing mandatory in a section of west-central Wisconsin. Scientists now think the disease has been in the upper Midwest deer herd for 40 years or more. Wisconsin started its campaign to control CWD in 2002.

More information is online at dnr.wi.gov.

Dale Forbis, Public News Service - WI