A stressful period of waiting has begun for northern Wisconsin hunters.
With luck, their anxiety will be put to rest by the end of the month.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection confirmed Wednesday that depopulation of Copper Hills Hunting Preserve near Oulu has begun. The preserve was placed under quarantine March 7 after a dead buck from a Washington County deer farm operated by the same owners tested positive for chronic wasting disease. Deer from the Washington County property had been transferred to Copper Hills Hunting Preserve.
DATCP communications director Bill Cosh said owners Dirk and Jane Stolz have been cooperative since the quarantine and subsequent request to depopulate the roughly two dozen deer on the Bayfield County preserve.
According to Cosh, Wildlife Services killed 12 deer on the property over the weekend and sent them for testing.
"Generally we get CWD IHC (Immunohistochemistry) sample results back in 2-3 weeks once the lab receives the samples," Cosh said. "If they are sent for confirmation to NVSL (National Veterinary Services
Laboratories) it can be 6-8 weeks."
Chronic wasting disease was first confirmed in Wisconsin in 2002, and it has since spread to 31 of the state's 72 counties. The disease has been confined largely to the southern half of the state, but the quarantine of the Bayfield County farm creates a new sense of urgency in northern Wisconsin.
Al Horvath, chairman of the Douglas County Deer Advisory Council and co-chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Deer and Elk Committee, has been concerned by the spread of CWD for years. The
recent events in Bayfield County bring the matter closer to home.
"I have been seriously involved in addressing CWD concerns for about three years because I envisioned its expansion and the threat that would present," Horvath said. "Many in the North were so removed from
endemic areas that the seriousness of the threat wasn't fully realized."
Now northern counties are taking action.
Horvath and Dave Clausen, a former chairman of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, both circulated citizen resolutions at Monday's annual Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress county
Among the provisions called for in the resolutions were requirements for double fencing on deer farms and mandatory participation in the state's CWD herd status program. The resolutions also recommended the depopulation farms found to have a confirmed case of CWD and a ban on the movement of deer from "any CWD endemic counties and from all positive facilities."
"We are going to lose the battle to slow the spread of CWD if something isn't done," Horvath said.
Prior to Monday's statewide meetings, Horvath heard from contacts in 22 counties who planned to introduce the CWD resolutions.
If all 22 followed through, it would be a marked increase from two years ago, when resolutions were brought forward in 14 counties.
Horvath, however, is hopeful numbers will be even higher.
"My hope remains that 30 to 40 counties would have picked them up," he said.
Resolution results won't be available until next week, but Horvath hopes to see strong support for the CWD resolutions, which could spur legislators to more aggressively combat CWD.
According to Horvath, current regulations don't do enough to curb the spread of CWD. He points to the incident at the Copper Hills Hunting Preserve as evidence.
"He (Stolz) claims to run one of the 'cleanest' breeding operations in the state," Horvath said. "That operation had a dead three-year-old buck that tested positive for CWD."