MARSHFIELD, WI (Submitted to OnFocus) – Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always fatal disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, moose and caribou. The disease spreads through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, urine, feces and natural decomposition after death.
The known CWD infectious agent, or prion, is very resistant to destruction, making it difficult to contain. Because of this, baiting, feeding and improper carcass disposal increase the risk of transmission.
Symptoms of CWD include: extreme weight loss, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions.
While there has never been a documented case of CWD in humans, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control recommend against consuming meat from CWD-infected deer.
CWD testing is free, accurate and helpful for disease monitoring efforts. After registering a deer, hunters anywhere in Wisconsin can submit a sample – the deer’s head with three inches of neck attached – for testing as soon as possible after harvest.
Test results are typically available 10-14 days after the deer is brought to a sampling station.
Healthy deer may contract CWD through exposure to contaminated soil where a CWD-positive carcass has decomposed. That’s why disposing of deer carcasses properly, including bones and butchering waste, helps slow the spread of CWD.
Three simple steps all hunters can take during deer gun season to slow the spread of CWD:
Step 1: Test Harvested Deer for CWD
No matter the hunting location, all hunters can have their deer tested for CWD. By having deer tested, hunters provide the DNR important data needed to understand where CWD exists on the landscape to better slow the spread.
The DNR offers four free and easy ways to submit a sample:
- Self-service kiosks open 24/7 Kiosks have supplies for hunters to drop off their adult deer’s head with 5 inches of neck attached for testing. Hunters can check the DNR’s CWD sampling webpage before heading afield to find a location near them.
- In-person with cooperating meat processors, taxidermists and other businesses. Visit a cooperating partner for assistance with CWD testing.
- At-home lymph node sampling. Hunters can extract the retropharyngeal lymph nodes using an instruction kit provided by the DNR and return them to the DNR for testing. Hunters can contact their local wildlife biologist to get a kit.
- By appointment with local DNR staff. Hunters can contact their local wildlife biologist to schedule an in-person appointment.
Step 2: Follow Baiting and Feeding Regulations
Placing bait to hunt deer or feed deer for viewing is banned by state law in certain counties due to the presence of CWD. In counties where CWD has not been found, hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts can still choose not to bait and help reduce the risk of CWD transmission. Bait and feed placed on the landscape, even in limited quantities, often attracts unnatural numbers of deer and can increase the likelihood of transmission between deer.
Step 3: Properly Dispose of Deer Carcass Waste
Proper carcass disposal helps slow the spread of CWD spread by removing potentially infected deer carcasses from the landscape. To properly dispose of deer carcass waste, hunters can locate a designated dumpster, transfer station or landfill location accepting deer carcass waste on the DNR’s Carcass Movement, Processing and Disposal webpage.
The department does not recommend transporting whole deer carcasses to areas outside the county or adjacent county where the animal was harvested.
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