Last month, an elk was diagnosed with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) at a game farm in Burnett County. Until then, no deer, elk, or moose had tested positive for CWD in the counties of the 10th Senate District. But it was just a matter of time.
Scientists believe CWD may spread between animals through contact with contaminated body fluids and tissue, or through exposure to CWD in drinking water or foods. It is a disease that has threatened our deer population since the first infected deer was discovered in Wisconsin in 2001. Since then, more than 5,600 deer and elk, both farm-raised and wild, have tested positive for CWD in 35 counties. We cannot ignore this problem when our state’s deer herd and hunting heritage are in jeopardy.
CWD impacts the nervous system causing deer to lose weight, experience tremors, lose muscle control, and display odd behavior. It is also a 100% fatal disease in affected deer. It belongs in a family of diseases characterized by abnormal proteins called prions which cause damage to the brain. So-called “mad cow” belongs to that family of diseases as does the human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob. There should be no doubt that this is a serious disease that is spreading across our deer population.
Even though the overall number of CWD tests declined in recent years, the rate of CWD positive samples increased. In 2006, out of over 30,000 samples, 205 tested positive. In 2014, only 5,467 samples were tested, yet 331 samples were positive.
We must provide the resources to research its spread and begin to contain CWD. I have been joined by some of my Democratic colleagues in taking action on this issue. I am co-authoring two bills with Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) that will implement strategies that have been recommended by CWD experts.
LRB-0293 will provide $1 million annually for more robust testing, research, and management of CWD. Additionally, LRB-3300 will provide funding for the Adopt-a-Kiosk program through which hunters may drop off deer carcass samples for testing. The DNR works with volunteers to set up kiosks around the state to make CWD sampling more convenient for hunters. With this additional funding, the sportsmen and women won’t have to cover the entire cost of these kiosks.
Hunting is a way of a life and a proud tradition for many Wisconsinites. As John James Audubon said, “a true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” We have a responsibility to protect our deer population from this disease and ensure that future generations can enjoy the hunt as we have.
As the deer season begins, there are things you can do to limit the spread of CWD and help our state in this effort.
- Find your nearest kiosk and submit your carcass samples to help the research continue
- Don’t transport whole carcasses or any brain, spinal cord, or lymph tissue to areas outside of the county or adjacent county where the animal was harvested
- Dispose of CWD-positive carcasses via your regular municipal waste stream or directly in a landfill
- Report deer exhibiting CWD symptoms or multiple dead deer in an area by contacting your local DNR office
State Senator Patty Schachtner proudly represents Wisconsin’s tenth senate district with over 160,000 constituents. The district covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.