Here in Northwestern Wisconsin, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in both wild deer populations and in deer farms. Last year, a deer tested positive for this fatal disease on a Burnett County deer farm, and days before the gun opener, a wild deer tested positive in Dunn County.
CWD has been threatening 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.
Yet little action has been taken in recent years to combat the spread. Last session I introduced two bills that would have provided $1 million annually for more robust testing, research, and management of CWD, and to provide funding for the Adopt-a-Kiosk program through which hunters may drop off deer carcass samples for testing. Unfortunately, the Committees on Sporting Heritage wouldn’t even hold a hearing on this critical issue.
Hunting is a way of a life and a proud tradition for many Wisconsinites. We have a responsibility to protect our deer population from this disease and ensure that future generations can enjoy the hunt as we have. I’m going to continue to push the issue forward to protect hunting in Wisconsin for hunters both today and tomorrow.
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.