New initiatives for combating chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin enlist deer farmers and hunters in the fight to slow the disease.
The three-step plan announced Wednesday by Gov. Scott Walker includes enhanced deer farm fencing, a ban on the movement of live deer from deer farms in CWD-affected counties and a ban on the movement of deer carcasses from CWD-affected counties.
Under the carcass rule, hunters can still quarter the deer within the county it was harvested and take the meat anywhere within the state, but no portion of the spinal cord may be attached or moved.
Al Horvath, chairman of the Douglas County Deer Advisory Council, applauded the governor's actions.
"They are necessary and positive steps towards helping to control the spread of CWD," Horvath said. "There is more that needs to be done, and we will pursue keeping the focus on making reasonable changes to procedures, which will help protect us against the spread of CWD. These steps would strengthen rules, which safeguard us against the further expansion of CWD to additional counties and our wild deer herd."
The initiatives are common sense first steps to contain CWD in the state, according to Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range. But more needs to be done.
"We need a moratorium on new deer farms and consolidation of enforcement into one agency," Milroy posted on Facebook. "Baiting needs to be addressed on a statewide scale. We also need to aggressively reduce the herd in affected regions. I hope it's not too little, too late."
He thanked sportsmen who have pushed for new rules through the Conservation Congress and other avenues.
Deer in 31 Wisconsin counties have tested positive for CWD, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Of the counties, 25 have had a wild CWD-positive deer; 12 have a captive CWD-positive.
"We need to protect Wisconsin's hunting traditions and longstanding heritage by working together to contain the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer," Walker said. "Wisconsin put together a comprehensive plan years ago that implemented new testing procedures to identify and root out CWD while committing to new steps to combat CWD. Today, we will move forward on implementing new rules that will place us among the leaders in the nation's fight against CWD."
In March, a buck that died at a deer farm in Washington County tested positive for CWD. The findings led to a quarantine at both the Washington County farm and one in the town of Oulu in Bayfield County. The Oulu farm had received two dozen deer from the Washington County farm in December.
At this point, 15 of the deer at the Bayfield County farm have been depopulated and two dead deer have been found, according to Bill Cosh, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Test results are back on the first 14 and all were negative for CWD, Cosh said.