SPOONER – With over 8,400 samples collected a health check sampling of white-tail deer that focused on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Bovine TB in the DNR’s 18 county Northern Region has been completed. To obtain a statistically valid sample a total of 8,000 deer, about 500 per county, were needed.
Northern Region Wildlife Staff Supervisor Mike Zeckmeister said all the samples have been sent to a lab in Madison to check for the diseases and the results of those tests should by in by the end of January. “More importantly,” he said, I want to thank all the hunters, meat processors, taxidermists, students and DNR staff who assisted us by bringing deer in for sampling. We could not have done this with out their help.”
The Deer Health Surveillance program began in January of last year when wildlife and other DNR staff took tissue samples from road kill deer. Adult deer heads were needed to obtain the lymph nodes located in the neck of the animal. The nodes are then analyzed for CWD and other diseases. The DNR wanted to get as many samples as possible prior to the busy fall hunting season.
By the start of the bow-deer season on September 13, 40 per cent of the goal had been reached. A plan was devised to contact taxidermists, meat processors, student volunteers and others to insure a supply of samples coming in.
At the start of the 9-day gun deer season about 80 per cent of the samples had been collected and the work was over in Polk, Burnett, and Washburn counties.
“We used word of mouth, news releases, radio contacts and posters to get the message out that we needed deer for this sampling effort and it paid off,” Zeckmeister said. “But the last 25 per cent would be tough because we also had to do age sampling along with CWD sampling and this was a big challenge.”
“The aging information we collect every year is critical,” the wildlife supervisor said, “especially this year considering that deer populations appear to be closer to over winter goals sooner than we expected.”
As had been done during the bow and antlerless only hunt, hunters cooperated in the aging and sampling effort by supplying their harvested animals. By the end of the gun deer season the age and health check sampling goals were met.
“The white-tail deer is an important component of our recreation and economy and this health check is one tool we use to insure this resource is maintained and protected,” Zeckmeister said. He added that preliminary results show no signs of Bovine TB and tests are coming back negative for CWD.
The DNR does intensive health checks periodically. The last check in the north was done in 2002 shortly after the discovery of CWD in the southern part of the state.