FITCHBURG – The long deer hunting seasons in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) zones ended quietly on Jan. 3 with hunters submitting almost 12,500 deer for testing.

To date, 70 animals have tested positive, all but six from the 1,153 square mile Intensive Harvest Zone (IHZ) centered in western Dane and Iowa Counties with small sections in Columbia, Green, Richland and Sauk Counties.

Five positive deer were identified in Rock County, either in the small Disease Eradication Zone (DEZ) along the State Line or in that part of the county situated in the much larger CWD Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ). One deer was found outside of the CWD zones in Kenosha County.

“On behalf of all our wildlife staff, I wish to acknowledge and tip my cap to the remarkable perseverance of southern and southwest Wisconsin deer hunters who, in spite of lower deer populations in many areas, continued to significantly reduce the deer herd and help in the battle to control the spread of CWD,” said Tom Howard, DNR wildlife supervisor based at Dodgeville.

“This excellent cooperation from hunters and landowners will go a long way in helping us (to) make good progress in gathering the samples we need to guide future CWD management decisions,” added Mr. Howard.

Almost 14,750 deer have been submitted for testing when out state animals are added to the mix and testing should be completed in several weeks, according to officials at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL), Madison.

Preliminary data indicates the harvest within the IHZ could reach about 13,000 deer and “we believe this number is sufficient to continue the reduction of the deer herd in the infected areas,” said DNR wildlife biologist Al Crossley, Fitchburg.

During the next month, an interagency group of biologists will be looking at the number and location of positive deer and based on analysis of these data “we will put together our thoughts on what the hunting seasons and zones might look like for the fall, 2004,” noted Mr. Crossley.

Hunting season structure, baiting and feeding rules and CWD zone boundaries will be established under the agency’s rule making process, which includes holding public hearings prior to taking the rule changes to the state Natural Resources Board in April, 2004, for adoption.

Other winter CWD activities will include:

  • Mid-Winter Population Estimates – As soon as there is enough snow on the ground, DNR will begin aerial surveys to estimate post-hunt deer populations. These data will give biologists a more informed picture of the impact from the 2003 hunting seasons and also help DNR to make a decision on the 2004 hunting seasons.

  • Research & Data Analysis – UW-Madison researchers will be attempting to trap and radio-collar as many deer as possible – to date, they have trapped 21 deer – within their northern Iowa County research site. The interagency CWD science team will then analyze the profile and distribution of CWD-positive deer from 2003.

  • Sick Deer Removal – This is an ongoing, high profile work activity and DNR staff will respond to citizen reports of sick deer. Wildlife biologists will either try or authorize citizens to kill sick deer matching the profile of CWD-suspects animals for testing. Persons who observe sick deer should contact either their local conservation warden, DNR wildlife biologist or local DNR office.

  • Education & Outreach – DNR will continue to inform the public, especially those in the IHZ, results of its findings and control efforts.

  • Carcass Disposal – DNR will be working with the WVDL to use their new chemical digester unit that will cost much less for carcass and head disposal than incineration.