State senator, representative introduce bill to fight chronic wasting disease

By Peter Culver

MADISON (WKOW) — Two state Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday to combat Chronic Wasting Disease, an always-fatal illness that can rip through wild populations.

According to a news release from state Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), the Healthy Herd, Healthy Hunt legislation will sponsor funding for research into CWD, as well as funding for testing areas and disposal sites for infected carcasses.

CWD affects deer, elk and moose in a similar fashion to mad cow disease. Both conditions come from an internal protein defect called a prion, which leads to rapid brain degeneration, weight loss, unusual behavior and loss of bodily control.

“Like anything else, it costs money to study and learn about CWD, but the down payment we make now on testing and transmission prevention efforts is a small price to pay compared to the immeasurable amount we risk losing if we delay action any longer on CWD,” state Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) said in the news release.

Shankland and Smith co-introduced the bill Wednesday, backed by a wide range of environmental organizations across Wisconsin. According to Portage County Deer Advisory Council chairperson Pete Theisen, the bill is necessary to ensure safety during hunting season.

"The worst thing I could imagine would be to accidentally give CWD-contaminated venison to a loved one and to have them get sick as a result. I appreciate this work to highlight the importance of getting your deer tested and making sure that’s accessible to everyone, no matter where they are in the state," Theisen said in the release.