Madison, Wis. – Officials with the Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection were notified on Dec. 12 by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, IA that an escaped male white-tailed deer owned by James Hirschboeck has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Hirschboeck indicated that the ear-tagged, 1 1/2-year old buck escaped from his Town of Troy game farm in March, 2002. The animal was killed by DNR conservation wardens on October 22 on land immediately adjacent to the Hirschboeck pens. The deer was shot as part of increased disease surveillance efforts undertaken in the vicinity of the Hirschboek farm following the discovery of a CWD-positive female deer from inside the Hirschboeck pens on October 16. Officials announced that on Dec. 11, agents of the USDA’s Wildlife Services office, in cooperation with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) destroyed the entire Hirschboeck herd of 118 animals. All animals taken from the farm will be tested for CWD.

“We are very disappointed to learn that the escaped deer tested positive,” said Tom Hauge DNR wildlife management director. “It also reaffirms in my mind that Wisconsin’s quick response to quarantine this herd and undertake surveillance was absolutely the right move. I’ve asked our interagency CWD health and science team to look into the specifics of this situation, the risk to the local wild herd, and to make recommendations on what disease management actions might be appropriate.”

Approximately 30 of 117 wild deer, mostly shot by hunters during seasonal deer hunts, have been sampled for CWD testing in Walworth County as part of ongoing disease surveillance efforts. Thus far, all have been negative. The remaining test results should be available in the next two weeks.

“We shouldn’t assume that this situation is the same as in the CWD eradication area in Dane and Iowa counties,” says Hauge. “The terrain, wild deer herd abundance and time of exposure are very different. Our science team needs to look at the specifics and give us some guidance.”

“Heads from the deer taken off the Hirschboeck farm were transported to the DNR’s tissue collection laboratory near Black Earth,” said Donna Gilson, DATCP spokesperson. “The tissue collection will be completed today and the tissues will be sent to NVSL for processing next week. Results should be back in four to six weeks.”

Deer and elk herds on two additional farms may also be depopulated in additional efforts to stop the spread of CWD. The farms are located in Walworth and Portage counties. No escapes of captive animals have been reported from either of these facilities.

Approximately noon today, the DNR will also be posting the latest CWD surveillance testing results on its website at Roughly 1,400 new results will be posted including four new CWD positive finds from the CWD Eradication Zone in western Dane, eastern Iowa and southern Sauk Counties. As the escaped deer announced today was ear-tagged and clearly a farmed animal, it will not be reported as a wild deer and will not appear in the DNR’s wild herd surveillance test reporting nor will the results of the 118 deer euthanized on Dec 11.

The state has collected over 37,000 deer heads from around the state. With today’s testing update the number of proven positives in the wild herd is 48, all within the 411-square mile CWD eradication zone. The Wisconsin Viral Research Group, a private testing laboratory, announced that they have tested tissues supplied by hunters and that there may be CWD-infected deer outside the current CWD eradication zone. Wisconsin and USDA officials consider these test results as a suspect positives at this time and have requested the tissues collected by the lab be shared with USDA in order to confirm, if possible, this information.

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