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CWD test comes back negative

Across northern Wisconsin, hunters held their breath this past week. Many feared chronic wasting disease had arrived. It was reported late last week that a buck from the Twin Creek Hunting Preserve near Ashland tested positive for CWD in a prelim...

Across northern Wisconsin, hunters held their breath this past week. Many feared chronic wasting disease had arrived.

It was reported late last week that a buck from the Twin Creek Hunting Preserve near Ashland tested positive for CWD in a preliminary analysis.

But news came from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Thursday that hunters can breathe easily again -- a second test to confirm the case of CWD came back negative.

Davin Lopez, CWD biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the preliminary test that first indicated the presence of the disease has yielded "unusual results" in the past.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa conducted the second, more extensive battery of tests, and concluded that the buck from the hunting preserve did not have CWD. The Department of Agriculture oversaw the second round of testing.

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At Superior Shooters Supply in Superior, owner Pat Kukull, was relieved to hear the news that Bayfield County did not have a case of CWD.

"I was already mentally going down that path, especially because that's where I hunt," Kukull said. "It's always a concern, so it's great news chronic wasting disease wasn't discovered."

During the week leading up to Thursday's announcement, Kukull said her customers had been strangely mum on the subject of the potential CWD find.

"I didn't hear one word about it," Kukull said. "I do think maybe they were suffering in silence."

From an industry standpoint, Kukull said any threat to the resource is cause for anxiety. When she first heard about the possible CWD case, she said she almost fell off her chair.

"The problem is, it's such an important industry," Kukull said of deer hunting. "It's a heritage, but it's an industry too."

Wildlife biologist Fred Strand had felt the unease among hunters locally. In the days leading up to the opener, the phone in his Superior office was ringing off the hook with calls from worried hunters. Most wanted to know if the case had been confirmed, and if it was, what would mean for them?

Now Strand can put hunters' worries to rest.

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"Just going hunting is the most important thing, so go out and enjoy the hunt," Strand said.

When the DNR last conducted a survey in northern Wisconsin to test the deer herd for disease in 2008, no trace of CWD was found. The Twin Creek case would have been the first discovered in northern Wisconsin. Since 2002, CWD has been confined to the CWD zone in the southern part of the state.

Hunting forecast

The Wisconsin regular deer firearm season runs Nov. 20-28, and in northwestern Wisconsin, hunters can expect much of the same Strand said.

"Douglas County, in total, is probably pretty similar to last year," Strand said.

Harvest numbers to the east, from the eastern half of Bayfield County to the Michigan border, are expected to be lower. Many of the deer management units in that region have a zero quota for the season, meaning only bucks may be harvested. The zero quota was voted upon at the March herd status meetings, as hunters wished to limit the harvest to rebuild the herd.

In all, 15 northern units have a zero quota season: DMUs 7, 13, 28, 29A, 29B, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 43, 44 and 52. In Douglas County DMUs 1M and 8 are herd control units. All others are under a regular season structure.

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