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Chronic wasting disease remains unchanged in deer population

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Ted Sullivan
February 6, 2009
— The presence of chronic wasting disease has not diminished in southern Wisconsin's deer despite efforts to reduce the population during last year's hunting season, officials said.

The disease was found in 2 percent of deer in southern Wisconsin when samples were taken during hunting season, said David Lopez, chronic wasting disease coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources.


The disease is spreading slowly but has not been found outside the chronic wasting disease management zone, he said.


"We didn't get any new positives that were a considerable distance away from known positives we've had in previous years," Lopez said. "Deer just don't disperse that far, especially in this part of the state."


About 142 deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease, including 15 deer in Rock County and five deer in Walworth County, when 6,131 deer were sampled during the hunting season, he said.


The disease's prevalence in deer is about the same as in previous years.


"We don't expect it to go away by itself," said Mike Foy, a DNR wildlife biologist. "So the fact that we found some positives is not surprising."


Rock and Walworth counties are in the chronic wasting disease management zone. The goal in the zone is to reduce the abundant deer population and contain the disease.


The DNR had generous hunting regulations in 2008 to fight the disease, including allowing rifles, a Christmastime gun season and an unlimited earn-a-buck program where hunters could kill a buck for every antlerless deer they shot first.


But the relaxed regulations didn't reduce the disease in the management zone, Lopez said.


The result is hunters can expect to enjoy liberal hunting seasons for years to come, he said. And the DNR will continue to closely monitor chronic wasting disease.


The DNR has a plan to manage the disease over the next 10 years. The plan includes recommendations from a citizens group and lessons learned since the disease was discovered in 2002, according to the DNR.


The goal of the plan is to minimize the number of infected deer and the area where the disease is found, Lopez said.


The DNR hopes to prevent new introductions of the disease, respond to outbreaks and control its spread, he said.


The DNR expects its plan to get adopted in June.



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