BARABOO, Wis – The Department of Natural Resources will attempt to reduce the deer herd at Devil’s Lake State Park as part of the agency’s ongoing chronic wasting disease (CWD) control efforts.

Two CWD positive deer were recently identified in or near the 10,200 acre state park located in Sauk County, the northern most known extent of the disease in Wisconsin. Officials are awaiting confirmation of a third CWD positive deer shot within the park’s boundary.

Wildlife disease experts recommend that preventing CWD spread by eliminating outbreaks near the edge of the known infection area, like stamping out sparks from a forest fire to contain its spread, “is a vital part of Wisconsin’s management strategy,” noted CWD project leader Alan Crossley, Fitchburg.

Deer culled from the park will be tested to better define the disease’s extent and severity.

“Herd reduction is a standard disease control strategy in wild, free ranging deer when there is neither a treatment nor vaccine available to control a disease outbreak. This strategy removes sick animals from the landscape, and in doing so may reduce deer density to below the threshold at which transmission can occur, and minimizes the accumulation of CWD prions in the environment,” pointed out Mr. Crossley.

“Our agency is committed to halting the spread of CWD and we feel this is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate our seriousness, as the park’s land managers, to reduce the local deer herd and ensure there’s a healthy deer herd for all park users to enjoy,” he added.

CWD is a neurological disease found in elk, moose and deer. The disease-causing agent is an infectious abnormal protein, called a CWD prion, which is smaller than a virus. Disease-causing prions enter brain cells and convert normal prions into abnormally-folded prions. The abnormally-folded prions accumulate in the brain, causing the death of brain cells and development of microscopic holes.

CWD is transmitted from deer to deer, either through direct contact or body fluids contaminating the environment. A recent study in Colorado has provided strong evidence that CWD can be transmitted via saliva and researchers are also concerned about feces being a source of disease.

DNR will attempt to reduce the deer herd at Devil’s Lake State Park using agency sharp-shooters, weather permitting, after January 7, 2007, the date which marks the end of the archery deer season.

“Bait sites to attract deer for safe and effective shooting will be maintained well away from heavily used roads and trails both inside and outside the park to mitigate concerns and the potential for conflict with area residents and winter park users,” said Rich Evans, Devil’s Lake State Park supervisor.

Two of the known CWD positive deer shot in the Devil’s Lake area were targeted because of their emaciated condition, head hanging low and easy approachability, all visible indicators seen in the disease’s late stages. One was shot in the park by staff and the other just outside the park boundary by a conservation warden.

Devil’s Lake State Park is located in the CWD Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ), an area covering all or part of 19 counties which serves as a buffer between the smaller CWD Eradication Zone (DEZ) and the rest of the state.

The two known CWD positive deer and the animal pending confirmation were shot about four miles north of the DEZ border. CWD positive deer closest to those in or near Devil’s Lake were shot in on the Columbia County side of the Wisconsin River near Merrimac, about five miles away.

Since 2002, more than 115,000 wild, white-tailed deer have been tested statewide for CWD (7987 from Sauk County) with 707 testing positive (10 from Sauk County). Of deer testing positive, 682 were from the DEZ and 25 from the HRZ.

The western DEZ covers 1280 square miles and encompasses much of Iowa County, western Dane County, southern Sauk County and small sections of Columbia, Green, Lafayette and Richland Counties.

Persons interested in the latest information on CWD in Wisconsin can visit the DNR Web site at: Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin.