MADISON – With the reporting of five additional chronic wasting disease (CWD) positive wild deer from the disease eradication zone this week, Whitetails Unlimited (WTU) will issue the first CWD Reward Program checks.

The Whitetails Unlimited’s and Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) joint CWD Reward Program awards $400 for each deer that tests positive for CWD in the intensive harvest zone (IHZ) or disease eradication zones (DEZ) of south central Wisconsin. The $400 will be split with $200 going to the hunter who harvested the deer, and the other $200 going to the landowner from whose property the deer was taken. Whitetails Unlimited, a conservation organization dedicated to white-tailed deer and their environment, will be issuing the reward checks along with a free one-year membership to WTU as test results become available.

“Hunters and landowners are Wisconsin’s greatest assets to help control CWD within the infected area,” said Tom Hauge, Director of Wildlife Management for the DNR. “Reducing the deer herd to control the disease is tough medicine and tough work. This program is a way to say ‘thank you’ to hunters and landowners who help in the areas where it is most important in order to keep CWD from spreading.”

The pilot CWD Reward Program recognizes and rewards landowners and hunters who harvest deer to control CWD in the IHZ and DEZ. The program is in effect for this year’s hunting season in those areas, which started September 13 and ends January 3, 2004.

The reward program fund consists of $200,000 from DNR funds and $50,000 from a private donor. Whatever money is remaining from the $250,000 total after all hunters and landowners have been paid for CWD-positive deer, will be distributed in $20 increments to hunters in the IHZ and DEZ that harvested deer during the season. If funds are not sufficient to cover all registered deer, a random drawing will take place. A hunter’s name will be entered into the drawing once per deer registered. If a hunter registered five deer during the season, he or she will have five chances of getting $20. The $20 checks will be distributed at the end of the hunting season when all CWD testing is complete.

“The reward program also recognizes hunters that take deer from the IHZ and DEZ that do not test positive for CWD,” Hauge said. “Lowering the overall deer density reduces transmission of CWD from sick deer to healthy deer in the area, thus the $20 rewards.”

The five CWD-positive deer, a yearling buck, a 2-year-old buck, a yearling doe, and two 4- to 5-year old does, were taken from the DEZ during the archery season. The hunter of the yearling doe said he was surprised to hear that it was CWD-positive. “She looked perfectly healthy,” he said. The hunter also said that he is planning to continue hunting and was looking forward to the rest of the fall.

DNR personnel shot two of the CWD-positive deer after local residents called the department to report a sick-looking deer in their area. In cases like this, no hunter payment is given but the landowner on whose land the deer was shot will receive $200 from WTU.

“We encourage and appreciate landowners calling us to report a sick-looking deer,” Hauge said. “By calling, we can authorize them to shoot the deer or we can try to dispatch one our own employees to shoot the deer if the landowner is unable to do it.”

Like last year, hunters will receive a postcard from the DNR if the deer they harvested tested negative for CWD. The DNR will contact hunters and landowners by phone if the deer tested positive. Additionally, hunters can access test results on the DNR Web site. The online results database will be updated automatically as test results are returned from the lab and hunters who harvested positive deer are properly notified.

For more information on CWD and the CWD Reward Program, please visit the DNR “Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin” Web site. Information is also available on Whitetails Unlimited’s Web site, www.whitetailsunlimited.org . To report a sick-looking deer, please call your local DNR office.