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Conservation Congress proposes enhanced CWD management strategies



In an effort to combat chronic wasting disease (CWD), the Conservation Congress unveiled new strategies and suggestions for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Increased education, improved carcass disposal efforts and expanded CWD testing were the three main pillars suggested for managing the disease.

Larry Bonde, the chairman, said concerning education, there are partners in CWD control outside of hunters.

“We have bird watchers,” Bonde said.” We have hikers. We have bikers. We have ATV users. We have snowmobilers. A lot of those people are not in tune with CWD, and they don’t know what to do when they see a sick animal. I would bet most ATV users don’t understand they could be transmitting prions in the soils that are attached to their ATVs.”

Prions are what infect the animals with CWD.

The congress said every DNR employee that has contact with the public should be given a CWD brochure to hand out to people. The congress says the brochure also should be given out with every license sold.

The congress said the DNR also needs to streamline its website so CWD information is readily accessible.

Gregory Kazmierski, vice-chair of the Natural Resources Board, said there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the disease that damages deer populations.

“Ultimately, everybody would love to see CWD go away,” Kazmierski said. “That is not going to happen at this time. The science we have, there is no way to do that. All we can do is manage the disease until science comes through.”

The group called on the DNR to place more dumpsters on the landscape to make it easier for hunters to dispose of carcasses and expand the number of unmanned kiosks across the state where hunters can drop off tissue samples from their kills for testing.

Tami Ryan, DNR Wildlife Management Bureau acting director, said the DNR hoped to receive 21,000 samples to test for CWD. She mentioned staff members were looking into a pilot program that would let hunters submit CWD samples from smartphones.

According to Kazmierski, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about testing. He says many people wrongfully fear the DNR will take drastic management actions if they receive a positive test.

“To set some of those fears aside that we are not going to come in with helicopters and machine guns and wipe out their deer herd, but that is what some people believe, which has been a hindrance on getting people to actually get their deer tested.”

The Wisconsin DNR did order hunters in a half-dozen northwestern Wisconsin townships to submit deer they kill this fall for chronic wasting disease tests.

Ryan said the order comes in response to three infected deer identified in Eau Claire County last year. After the news conference, she said citizen deer advisory councils in surrounding counties formed a committee in response to the infections and recommended the DNR implement the mandatory testing order.

Ryan says the order was issued last week and applies to the nine-day gun season in townships in Eau Claire, Dunn and Pepin counties. She says the department will be doing in-person sample collections in the area. Typically hunters must drop tissue from their deer off at unmanned DNR kiosks for testing.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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