By Zachary Sheldon, Upper Midwestern States Coordinator
On May 2, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Scott Walker announced a three-step plan to combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the state.
CWD is a progressive, fatal, degenerative neurological disease that occurs in farmed and free-ranging members of the family Cervidae, which includes deer, elk, and moose. The disease was first detected in Wisconsin in 2002 and has been detected in the wild in 25 counties. Governor Walker’s plan will:
- Implement a new rule through the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) requiring enhanced fencing for cervid farms. Currently, farms in Wisconsin are required to have a single, eight-foot-high fence. The new rule would require either a second eight-foot-high fence, an electric fence, or an impermeable physical barrier.
- Implement a new DATCP rule that bans the movement of live deer from deer farms in CWD-affected counties.
- Task the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to create emergency and permanent rules to ban the movement of deer carcasses from CWD-affected counties. Under this rule, hunters would still be able to quarter the deer within the county the deer was harvested and take the meat anywhere in the state, however no portion of the spinal cord would be allowed to be attached or moved. A hunter who harvests a deer in a CWD-affected county could move a whole carcass outside of the county if the carcass is delivered to a licensed taxidermist or meat processor.
In addition to Wisconsin, CWD has been detected in 24 other states and two Canadian provinces. The disease is slow and progressive, and due to the CWD’s long incubation period, infected deer, elk, and moose may not exhibit any visible symptoms for years after they have been infected.
As it currently stands, the only way to conclusively identify the presence of CWD within an animal is by performing a necropsy. With no known treatments or vaccines available, CWD has proven fatal in all documented cases.
Funding for adequate surveillance and detection of this disease is limited, and often requires already financially burdened state fish and wildlife agencies to divert funds from other programs. To help alleviate this burden, bipartisan bills have been introduced in the US House of Representatives and the Senate by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members. The bills (H.R. 4454 and S. 2252) aim to appropriate upwards of $35 million to support state efforts to manage and control CWD. Through multi-agency cooperation between federal land management agencies and state and tribal agencies, the bills look to federally fund applied research that will aid with combatting CWD, while allowing for states to retain policy-making authority.
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