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Wisconsin DNR urges hunters to have deer tested for chronic wasting disease

Here are locations and options for getting deer tested in Northwestern Wisconsin.

cwd_deer_close.jpg
A whitetail buck in the late stages of chronic wasting disease. Deer may be infected with the fatal disease for more than year before they begin to look like this, which is why it's important to have even healthy-looking deer tested.
Contributed / Michael Hopper, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism
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MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is asking deer hunters to help slow the spread of chronic wasting disease by having the deer they shoot this fall tested for the fatal disease and then disposing of carcasses properly.

The DNR also encourages hunters to know their county's baiting and feeding restrictions. Baiting and feeding is banned in 58 counties — including Burnett and Washburn — to help slow the spread of CWD because large concentrations of animals in one area increase the risk of spreading an infection. A full list can be found at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/bait.html .

CWD is an always-fatal, contagious neurological disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, moose and caribou. The disease can spread through contact with an infected animal's saliva, urine or feces. CWD prions are extremely resilient, and they can stay in the soil for a long time, making containment of an affected area a challenge. When symptoms do appear, CWD causes drastic weight loss, drooping of the head and ears, loss of coordination, excessive salivation and no fear of humans.

“Please, please, please, help us learn more about this disease by getting your deer tested,” said Preston Cole, Wisconsin DNR secretary, during a video news conference earlier this month.

Local CWD testing options

The DNR offers four ways to submit a deer sample for free CWD testing, with details and instructions at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/registersample.html :

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  • Self-service kiosks where hunters can submit their deer’s head for testing, including the Bait Box in Superior and Rat’s Feed Store in Saxon.
  • A network of cooperating meat processors, taxidermists and other businesses who can assist with CWD sampling, including Timber Ghost Taxidermy in Iron River.
  • DNR offices across the state, including Brule, Minong, Bayfield, Ashland and Hayward.
  • Kits for hunters to extract lymph node tissue themselves to submit to the DNR for testing.

Once hunters have finished processing their harvested deer, they are reminded to check out their local deer carcass disposal options where they can safely dispose of deer carcass waste. The Moccasin Mike Landfill in Superior accepts carcasses. A full list can be found at dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/carcass.html. This service is provided in conjunction with many individuals and organizations across the state.

Keeping potentially infected deer off the landscape helps slow the spread of the disease. Hunters can also Adopt-A-Kiosk or Adopt-A-Dumpster to help the DNR expand access to sampling and proper carcass disposal.

While there has never been a documented case of CWD in humans, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend against consuming meat from deer that test positive for the disease.

Jeff Prtizl, the DNR’s deer program supervisor, said every time someone consumes venison from a CWD-positive deer, “they are testing that ongoing experiment on whether it can cross (to humans.)"

“Maybe it never has after one million times,” Prtizl noted, “and maybe it never will. But why test it?”

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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