New legislative package aims to combat spread of CWD

By Alyssa Lyons

WISCONSIN (WQOW) - As deer hunting season approaches the caution for chronic wasting disease grows (CWD).

CWD is a highly transmissible, fatal disease that affects the brains of deer, elk and moose.

Positive cases of CWD have already been found in over 15 Wisconsin counties this year, even here in Eau Claire County.

Now, a new set of bills introduced to the Wisconsin legislature, is aiming to stop the spread.

"Some people take it very seriously, and some people don't, and why they do it, don't do, or don't, I can't tell you," said Bill Yingst, hunter and sportsman. 

Three bills, with three objectives, but one goal: Prevent the spread. State senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) along with Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) introduced the package on Wednesday. 

"These bills would fund testing kiosks as well as positions to help for more testing, as well as the disposal sites, which are now really relying on volunteer organizations and volunteers to do that, and really, the state should be taking care of that," said Sen. Smith. 

If approved, funds for carcass disposal sites, CWD testing kiosks, CWD education, research and management would be factored into the state budget along with a string of requirements to be upheld by the DNR.  

The secretary of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Terri Roerhrig, said unless the state manages disposal sites, private clubs have to foot the bill, offering usage of independent dumpsters. 

"Here in the Chippewa valley, there's, there's several clubs that have those, and then you just simply put it into that dumpster. Those clubs, then, you know, have the expense of taking in the cost of putting the dumpster there," said Roehrig. 

According to the wildlife secretary, that can be a cost of around $2,000 for clubs, Roehrig said they're only reimbursed a quarter of the amount by the DNR by usually about $500.

A lack of enough kiosks and disposal sites also leads to improper disposal of deer waste, which can affect the landscape if the deer haven't been tested for CWD.

"A lot of times people will take it out to a state recreational area and dump it illegally. Or you know, they'll put it in the in their field. If it is CWD, has CWD, it hasn't been tested, then those pirons can get back into the landscape. And that's how CWD spreads."

DNR wildlife biologist of Eau Claire and Chippewa counties, Terry Shaurette, said currently most of their funding comes from USDA grants, but could benefit from having extra dough in their pockets.

"Whether it be for more carcass disposal options, more sampling options would always be good. All these things definitely do cost money. It's the research that universities are doing, and other things like that, to try to try to figure out whether there could be something that could be done to slow the spread, and eventually, a cure for CWD. All that research needs funding."

Shaurette also said that kiosk placements are based on the surveillance the DNR is operating in that area. 

"We've got two different types of surveillance that we do. We do a disease assessment, and we do disease detection. So in areas that we haven't had any CWD before in the wild deer population, we're doing disease detection. And then in areas that we do have CWD in wild deer populations, we are doing disease assessment, said Shaurette. 

The legislative package dubbed 'healthy herd, healthy hunt' are out for co-authorship.