Thousands of deer carcasses will be stored in refrigerated trucks on La Crosse’s Second Street while the deer heads are tested elsewhere for chronic wasting disease.
The carcasses will come from the CWD Eradication Zone west of Madison. Carcasses from infected deer will be cremated, the others landfilled in Dane County or at commercial sites, which is a less costly option.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has contracted with Wiebke Fur Co. of 110 Rose St., La Crosse, to store the carcasses until the testing is done.
Dan Wiebke, the storage contractor, originally planned to keep the carcasses in Caledonia, Minn., but animal health officials in the state balked. The disease has not been found in any Minnesota deer, and officials there are working to keep it that way. A Houston County district judge even blocked the move this week, though Wiebke said he already had decided to store the deer in Wisconsin.
Despite the concerns of Minnesota officials over the threat of deer there becoming infected, there is little or no apparent opposition to the carcasses being stored in La Crosse.
The La Crosse County Health Department was unaware of the plan until Thursday, but its director, Doug Mormann, said he did not expect any problems providing the deer are stored properly.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a problem,” Mormann said. “Storage of perishable products occurs all the time. It would not strike me as a significant concern unless there wasn’t an adequate plan for temperatures being maintained.
“I feel confident they’ll do things correctly,” he said. “Giving them a buzz to see if there’s anything we can do to help might be something we’ll do.”
Mormann added: “To the best of my knowledge, there is not an implication for human health.”
Wiebke said the storage procedure, which could last four to six weeks, will be supervised by the DNR. He said he could not remember where the storage trucks will be parked on Second Street. A DNR official could not immediately provide the exact leased location, either.
Wendy Weisensel of the DNR Bureau of Communication and Education said La Crosse has nothing to worry about.
“There’s no risk from those carcasses stored,” Weisensel said. “They will be wrapped and stay in the trucks.”
Weisensel added there is no known contact transfer between deer and humans. “It’s primarily deer to deer contact,” she said.
La Crosse Mayor John Medinger said he saw no reason for concern
“If they’re locked up in semis, I don’t see a problem,” Medinger said. “I’m not overly troubled, but I will check with (health officials) and make sure we’re on safe ground.”
CWD has been found in about 40 deer in south-central Wisconsin and threatens the state’s deer hunting, which generates an estimated $500 million in revenue each year.
The DNR is attempting to eradicate the disease from the area by reducing the deer herd there to as close to zero as quickly as possible. The CWD infection rate, based on tests so far, is about 2 to 3 percent, according to the DNR.