Yearly Archives: 2002

Arrival of CWD in Wisconsin Biggest Natural Resources Story of 2002

Hassett named by governor-elect to be new DNR Secretary

MADISON — The discovery of chronic wasting disease in three white-tailed deer from the Mt. Horeb area of Iowa and Dane counties on Feb. 28, was the state’s biggest natural resources story of 2002, and perhaps the most far-reaching biological, social and financial issue relating to natural resource management in Wisconsin over the past 50 years, according to the state’s top environmental official.

“No other event in the recent history of the Department of Natural Resources has generated the concern of Wisconsin sports people and biologists,” said DNR Secretary Darrell Bazzell. The issues required an unprecedented reallocation of funds and staffing within the agency.

Bazzell said the estimated fiscal cost to the DNR alone was some $12 million, and the disease threatens a nearly $1 billion in-state economy. The fervor over this issue produced the most heavily attended public meetings the agency has ever seen with over 1,600 people attending a single meeting in Mt. Horeb. The issue generated huge volumes of media coverage, including the arrival of news crews from several European countries as well as Japan.

The state Natural Resources Board approved special regulations to halt spread of the disease and to control or eliminate it in the area where it was found. Those regulations included several extended deer hunting seasons in the CWD management zones, as well as special “earn-a-buck” rules to encourage the shooting of antlerless deer, and a controversial statewide prohibition against baiting or feeding deer. Wildlife officials in Wisconsin and across the nation feel that baiting and feeding deer concentrates deer and could help spread CWD as well as other diseases.

Wildlife officials announced the goal of the special regulations was to try and eliminate all or as many of the deer as possible in a 40-mile area around where deer tested positive for the disease in order to try and eradicate the disease. Biologists estimated the pre-hunt population for the area was between 25,000 and 30,000 deer. Officials also planned and are carrying out the nation’s most comprehensive program to identify where in the state chronic wasting disease may be infecting the wild deer herd and to take steps to stop the disease from spreading.

More than 2,000 additional deer from the area of infection were tested for CWD between March and September 2002. Results from these collection efforts indicated that CWD appears to be localized to areas surrounding Mount Horeb in western Dane-eastern Iowa Counties and a small portion of southern Sauk County.

In addition, wildlife officials collected about another 34,000 samples from deer shot statewide for testing to see if CWD was present in the wild in other areas of the state. Nearly one-half of the agency’s staff were recruited to staff deer-head collection sites during the fall gun hunt. As of the end of 2002, 48 deer had tested positive for CWD out of 5,045 samples that had been tested. All of the positives came from the CWD eradication zone. No state samples have confirmed CWD in wild deer outside of the CWD eradication zone, although a private laboratory claimed to have found positive samples in Grant and Marathon counties from deer submitted by hunters using commercially available testing kits. Those tests have not been corroborated with federally approved testing methods.

DNR CWD Deer Farm Investigation

DNR wardens have been conducting an investigation of deer farms in Wisconsin since chronic wasting disease was discovered last fall on a central Wisconsin deer farm. By “tracing out” the movements and history of CWD-positive captive deer, wardens will help control the possible spread of the disease into the wild deer population. As part of the investigation, wardens have inspected nearly every one of the more than 600 deer farms in the state and have helped locate two additional CWD-positive captive deer.

Conservation wardens have identified three CWD positive deer from deer farms. Two of these deer were located inside deer farm enclosures, but one CWD positive deer (killed by wardens) was outside of any deer farm enclosure.

Wardens have destroyed ten deer roaming outside of a quarantined deer farm in an attempt to harvest a number of deer that escaped from the farm. The escaped deer have been roaming in the wild as far back as March 2002 and are a major concern as the deer were once contained inside a CWD positive farm and have co-mingled with at least one known CWD positive deer.

Virginia’s Monitoring Program

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries initiated a surveillance and monitoring program for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in free ranging White-tailed deer in October of 2002. Hunter harvested deer were sampled by collecting the head and taking brain and lymph node tissue samples. A total of 1047 deer heads were collected from hunters from every county in the Commonwealth. The number collected per county ranged from a low of 2 to a high of 26. The number per county was based on the average harvest over the past 3 years. Samples were also collected from six elk harvested in the southwest portion of the state.

Samples were sent to the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study lab in Athens Georgia for testing. Results are pending.

Each hunter who contributed a head for testing will receive notification of the test results. A general explanation of the overall results will be reported on this site as soon as they are received. The department would like to thank all hunters who assisted in the sampling procedure.

The surveillance and monitoring program will continue through early January with the collection of samples from deer that are reported as being emaciated or acting abnormally.

Three Counties Fall Short in Deer Tissue Collection Effort

DES MOINES – The Iowa DNR will continue collecting deer tissue samples in Allamakee, Jackson and Dubuque counties though the late muzzleloader season that ends Jan. 10. The three counties, along with Clayton County, were the focus of the tissue sample collection effort looking for the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Iowa deer.

To be as statistically accurate as possible, a minimum of 459 samples need to be collected in each of the counties. So far, only Clayton County has reached that level.

“What that does is gives us a 99 percent probability of detecting a 1 percent infection rate of the disease,” said Dale Garner, DNR wildlife biologist and state CWD expert. “We could use some additional samples, especially in Allamakee County.”

So far, the DNR has sent in tissue samples from nearly 500 deer that were killed on Iowa roadways or died as part of a captive herd. “We have results on about 200 of those samples and have not had one test positive,” Garner said. Results can take as much as three to six months.

“This whole process of taking a deer to a certain place and have the sample collected is new to Iowa hunters and, with anything new, there is an adjustment period,” he said. “We appreciate the cooperation from those hunters who either called us to come out to the field and collect a sample or stopped by the collection station.”

After the deer season ends, Garner and other DNR staff will look at the data results and discuss the next phase of the monitoring effort.

“I would guess we (DNR) will be collecting tissue samples during deer hunting seasons for the foreseeable future,” Garner said. “The health of the deer herd is important to Iowans.”

Game Officials Use New Test on New Mexico Deer

SANTA FE (AP) – New Mexico wildlife managers are using a new method of testing for chronic wasting disease that allows them to gather samples without killing the animals.

The recent discovery at Colorado State University that the disease can be detected in the animals’ lymph nodes led to the change.

Wildlife officers performed tonsillectomies on three mule deer last week. All three survived the operation.

“We’re only the second state in the nation to be doing it,” said Martin Frentzel, spokesman for the state Department of Game and Fish. “This process is just now hitting the scientific journals. It really is groundbreaking.”

Each procedure was performed at an outside operating station and took about 20 minutes.

Blindfolded and hobbled, the tranquilized deer were brought to the station, where they are given an antibiotic. A vise holds the deer’s mouth open while a veterinarian reaches down its throat with a device and removes small pieces of a tonsil. The deer is then given a blood test and is fitted with radio collars and ear tags.

“The deer is sleeping basically, and we monitor its temperature and its heart rate,” said Patrick Morrow, wildlife biologist for White Sands Missile Range Morrow. “All of the deer that we handled, we didn’t have any mortalities, and they all responded just perfectly.”

The sedated deer were taken to a secluded place where they slept off the medication for about an hour before they got back on their feet. Officers then tracked and observed the deer for a day or two.

“Within a day, they’re ready to eat again,” said wildlife health specialist Kerry Mower of the Game and Fish Department. “There will still be some pain in their throats, but it wasn’t hindering their eating at all. We were very satisfied with that.”

The samples were sent to CSU’s chronic wasting disease diagnostic laboratory for testing. Officials said it will take several weeks before the results are returned.

If any of the test results come back positive, the deer will be tracked and killed, officials said.

Once found only in small areas of Colorado and Wyoming, chronic wasting disease has spread to elk ranches and wild deer herds as far away as Wisconsin. New Mexico’s first and only case of the disease was detected in a sick mule deer killed March 28 at White Sands Missile Range.

Chronic wasting disease creates sponge-like holes in a deer’s brain, causing the animal to grow thin, act abnormal and die. The disease is similar to mad cow disease.

There has never been a known case of it being transferred to humans or livestock.

The state Department of Game and Fish is conducting the tests with the U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Agriculture, CSU and other agencies.

Because it takes more time and personnel to perform the live tests, “it’s very costly to do the operation we’re doing,” Morrow said. “Killing is the easier, quicker, more realistic way to get the number of samples you need, but we don’t have those numbers down here.”

Larry Bell, director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, wanted to attempt the live tests rather than eradicate the state’s already depleted deer herds.

“Unless we have to, we don’t want to go in there and whack a bunch of deer,” Frentzel said.

Like many states in the West, New Mexico has a mule-deer population that is currently lower than it has been for decades. Most biologists agree the decline can be blamed on drought, increased predation and poor habitat.

Chronic Wasting Disease Update

CWD UPDATE DECEMBER 20, 2002

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell has issued a special exemption to the state’s ban on the importation of cervids. When he received a complaint from an elementary school class reference the cervid ban, he decided to issue the exemption. The class was concerned that Santa Clause could not come to New Jersey this year because his reindeer were cervids and all cervids were banned from entering the state. To insure that Christmas was not ruined for the kids of his State, Commissioner Bradley issued a special exemption for reindeer that can fly.

Three additional cases of CWD have been found in Illinois. One of the cases was in the same vicinity of the index case near Roscoe, Illinois in Boone County and one in neighboring Winnebago County. The earlier case had previously been reported to be from Winnebago County but was later determined to be in Boone County, just over the county line. The other case was approximately 30 miles east of Roscoe in McHenry County. These cases were found through hunter harvest surveillance. These latest findings bring the total of positive CWD animals in Illinois to 4.

A judge in Louisiana has upheld the states ban on the importation of cervids. A captive wildlife producer from that state had planned on moving several elk from his facility in Arkansas to Louisiana. The Arkansas Game and Fish Department had given the producer until December 31 to get rid of his elk. The ban in Louisiana prevented him from moving them to a fenced facility he had constructed in that state. The producer filed suit against the ban but it was upheld by the Louisiana judge. The producer is now planning on selling hunts for the elk and then killing any left after that.

The preliminary results from 846 deer collected from eastern Nebraska during the firearm season were all negative. The ELISA test failed to turn up any positive samples. All samples are being rechecked by the IHC test to insure none were missed. These animals were from the eastern third of the state.