The clock is ticking on Douglas County's moratorium, which bans the import of deer and other cervids.
The Douglas County Board adopted an ordinance Thursday, Nov. 15, that puts the ban in place for one year, or until a yet-to-be appointed committee comes up with a plan to help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.
Chronic wasting disease is a contagious neurodegenerative disorder that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Found in some areas of Canada, the United States, Norway and South Korea, it can take more than a year before infected animals develop symptoms, which include drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms.
While there is no known risk to human health, some studies raise concerns that could be a possibility, according to the CDC.
Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said he expects to appoint the committee by next month to study the issue and develop a policy for transporting of deer and other cervids into Douglas County.
The committee is likely to be advised by Quinn or Cade Musch, owners of Long Lake Whitetails in South Range, and Al Horvath, chairman of Douglas County Deer Advisory Council and vice chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Deer and Elk Committee, Liebaert said.
Quinn Musch and Horvath offered opposing perspectives on the issue to the County Board before supervisors voted on the ordinance.
Musch, who started his business with his brother last year, said chronic wasting disease is more likely to be spread by dead carcusses of infected animals than through the bodily fluids of living ones. He said his farm, which has 32 deer, is a CWD-accredited farm in a highly-regulated industry.
Musch said it would take at least three years of growing the herd to make it possible to sell his stock and make it a sustainable operation.
As an accredited farm, Musch said they are required to test 100 percent of deer deaths for the disease, as opposed to 50 percent required of non-accredited farms. He said his operation buys nothing from any farm that isn't accredited for at least five years, 13 on average.
"I am opposed to the moratorium that's being debated, not that I'm opposed to the study of CWD because CWD, I can guarantee, has not nearly the effect on anyone in this room that it has on me and my family," Musch said. He said the moratorium could cripple the year-old operation because they won't be able to grow their herd.
"I do empathize with the farmers," Horvath told the board. "I think business is vital. We do need those dollars, but I think the health and the safety of our wild deer population and our citizens far surpasses individual business concerns."
Horvath said despite being a highly-regulated industry, it is an issue that keeps popping up on ranches. He said 61 percent of the new captive positives turned up in the last five years despite CWD-protocols, which are insufficient to stop the spread of the disease.
The County Board voted 2-to-1 in favor of the moratorium. Supervisors Larry Quam, Rosemary Lear, Pat Ryan, Scott Luostari, Jim Borgeson and Peter Clark opposed the moratorium.
"I just don't think it's fair that we could bankrupt a business because there is a moratorium," Clark said.
Liebaert and supervisors Nick Baker, Ron Leino, Charlie Glazman, Michael Raunio, Alan Jaques, Keith Allen, Sue Hendrickson, Joe Moen, Mary Lou Bergman, Sam Pomush and Doug Finn voted in favor of the moratorium.
"I sympathize, but I think it's important that we pass this moratorium right now," Allen said.