MADISON – There will be no food pantry donation program in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) Zones this hunting season due to cutbacks in funding.

Wisconsin’s federal CWD funding has been reduced by $656,000 and $1,072,100 in state funding is no longer available due to actions by the legislature Joint Finance Committee. The combined $1,728,100 reduction represents a 60 percent cut of the agency’s operations budget and curtailment of any new CWD research.

Current funding at the reduced level means that DNR can test only about 10,000 deer statewide, less than half the average number of deer tested in each of the last four years. More than 29,000 deer were tested in 2006.

“Our priority is to test as many hunter deer as we can. To stay within budget, free priority testing will occur where hunters have harvested CWD-positive deer in the past,” noted CWD project leader Alan Crossley, Madison.

Free CWD testing for hunters will be available in the two Disease Eradication Zones (DEZ) and a limited portion of the surrounding Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ), near Devil’s Lake State Park and northern Rock and Walworth Counties. DNR will also do a small amount of testing in Crawford and Portage Counties to monitor CWD near two captive herds that have tested positive for the disease.

No CWD Zones Pantry Donation Program in 2007

“We must suspend the Food Pantry program in CWD areas to maximize the funding available for testing hunters’ deer,” explained Crossley. More than 2,250 deer were contributed to the CWD Zone food pantry donation program in 2006.

Each deer donated through the food pantry program following CWD testing costs twice as much as a deer kept by hunters. According to Crossley, that’s because DNR incurs extra costs for meat processing and storage until testing comes back and confirms the deer isn’t positive for CWD.

“We will use our limited resources to test deer that hunters are keeping, rather than test deer that hunters turn over for donation to the food pantry,” he added.

Crossley noted that the pantry program will continue as normal this year outside the CWD zones where costs per deer – because testing and storage while waiting for results aren’t needed – are much lower.

Private CWD Testing Program

A cooperative program designed to provide hunters from many areas of the state the opportunity to have their deer tested for CWD (if not already sampled as part of the DNR CWD surveillance effort) will again be available this year.

This program is built upon a network of private veterinary practitioners who are trained and approved to extract samples for CWD testing. Each participating veterinarian will determine the fee that they will charge the hunter for sampling services and costs.

The list at the link below provides details of veterinarians in your area that may be able to sample registered, hunter killed deer for CWD. The hunter contacts the veterinarian directly. This list is a work-in-progress, so check back for updates.

The link is Chronic Wasting Disease Registration and Sampling.

Sharp shooting also Suspended

DNR staff won’t do any sharp shooting within CWD hotspots and new “spark areas” away from core areas of detection, such as in and around Devil’s Lake State Park. Again, existing funds will focus on maximizing testing of hunter-killed deer.

Agency personnel will continue to investigate reports of sick deer and, if necessary, euthanize and remove those animals off the landscape, pointed out the project leader.