State wildlife officials appealed to hunters to help them track and control chronic wasting disease Wednesday night during an informational meeting in Baraboo.

About 200 interested citizens gathered at the Al. Ringing Theatre to hear information on the recently-detected and fatal disease of Wisconsin white tails. Department of Natural Resources officials asked hunters to get involved so in tracking where the illness is in Wisconsin and eliminating deer with CWD.

Conservation Warden Mike Green of Wisconsin Dells told the audience CWD has been found in the American and Canadian west for many years. In Wisconsin, three deer shot near Mount Horeb during the November 2001 gun deer season were found to have the disease.

Since the first CWD deer were detected, 31 wild deer have been found to have the disease, he said. All off them were in the nine-and-a-half-mile circle around the Mt. Horeb area in western Dane and eastern Iowa counties. While a small section of the circle extends into southern Sauk County, no deer with CWD have been found here.

One domesticated deer has been found with CWD on a Portage County deer farm and three farms are now quarantined, Green said.

In a series of deer bow and gun deer hunts between Oct. 24 and Jan. 31 DNR officials hope hunters will shoot every deer within the nine-mile circle, named the erradication zone, Green said. In Sauk County and other areas, called the deer management or buffer zone, wildlife managers hope hunters will cut the deer population down to 10 deer per acre.

As part of the CWD control effort, all of the deer shot in the erradication zone will be tested for the disease. In Sauk and other buffer zone areas 500 white tails from each deer management unit will be tested for CWD, as will 500 deer from each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, said the warden.

One man who said he hunts regularly in Ironton Township spoke for others who complained that the DNR is killing deer unnecessarily or wasting the animals. “We’re eliminating our deer herd,” he said. “We’re killing healthy deer.”

Wildlife biologist Bill Ishmael said the purpose of hunting in the erradication and buffer zones is to hopefully eliminate CWD, or prevent its spread to the rest of Wisconsin. “You could consider the entire state deer population at risk of contracting this disease if it’s allowed to continue to spread,” he said. “We’re hoping to contain it or eliminate it from the state entirely.”

The DNR has made arrangments for people who decided they don’t want to keep the deer they kill. Hunters who kill a deer within the erradication zone will turn the carcass over to the DNR and they will be incinerated by a firm in Poynette, said Warden Green.

The Sauk County Landfill will also take deer shot within the county. (See related story, below).

DNR officials emphasized that there is no evidence that CWD can infect human beings. However, they did suggest hunters take precautions while handling deer in the CWD areas, such as wearing gloves while field dressing the animal and washing all implements used to cut up a deer with a 50/50 solution of household bleach and water.

Deer meat has not been shown to carry the disease-causing agent of CWD, called a prion. But hunters were instructed not to eat the eyes, brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of deer. Nor should they eat any deer that appears sick, according to the DNR officials.

Green said that a variety of special hunting regulations will apply and hunters attending the event were given a pamphlet, 2002 Wisconsin Regulations Related to Chronic Wasting Disease.