Do Your Part in Preventing CWD

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease of deer, elk and moose that is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. These prions cause brain degeneration in infected animals and lead to extreme weight loss, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. This fatal disease was first found in Wisconsin in 2002. Since then, more than 4,000 deer have tested positive for the disease. Of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, there are currently 56 CWD affected counties.

Thankfully, CWD is not prevalent in our area; however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do your part to help prevent it from spreading. With Wisconsin’s gun deer season right around the corner, it’s important that our sportsmen and women be aware of CWD. Everyone should know what is being done to prevent this disease from spreading into the Northwoods and how hunters can play a role in preventing its spread into our area.

As of right now, the main approach for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to track this disease is the voluntary sampling of harvested game. Even in places where CWD has not been found, it’s imperative that sportsmen and women do their part.

After harvesting your deer and registering it, you can bring the deer to a local sampling station or self-service sampling kiosk, or if no sampling station is available nearby, contact a local biologist to arrange sampling. The DNR website has an interactive map that provides local places in Northern Wisconsin that will help hunters during the sampling process.

While there is no mandatory sampling of harvested deer in our area, more hunters voluntarily helping with samples will help us be prepared and ready to combat this horrible disease. I encourage all hunters to get their deer sampled during this year’s hunt.

We all know that Wisconsin’s gun deer hunt is a way of life, a proud tradition and a multi-billion dollar industry. Together we must do more to protect the deer herd and ensure a healthy hunt. Please use the DNR website as a practical tool to learn more about this disease.

While it is important for hunters to do their part in sampling, there needs to be more done at the state level. After years of doing more with less, I’m happy to say that Governor Tony Evers, along with the new DNR Secretary Preston Cole and elected officials, are combating CWD head on.

In September 2019, I was proud to co-author the Healthy Herd, Healthy Hunt legislative package. This package includes bills that would provide funding for CWD research and management, funding for CWD testing kiosks and funding for carcass disposal sites and dumpsters. I am hopeful that the legislature will make these bills a priority and quickly pass them during the current legislative session.

After years of cuts to research scientists and funding, Wisconsin is moving in the right direction by taking an aggressive approach to finding the cause of CWD and combatting the spread of the disease. We can only hope that with hunter participation, involvement of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, as well as sound science from the DNR, Chronic Wasting Disease can be eradicated completely from our state’s deer herd.

I wish all of you a safe and successful nine day deer gun hunt. Be safe and be smart, and please consider sampling your harvested deer so future generations can participate and carry on the time-honored tradition of deer hunting in Wisconsin.