Wildlife officials and researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are closely watching for results of new control strategies designed to contain Chronic Wasting Disease in the state’s whitetail deer herd. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the largest change from last year is the compression of the white-tailed gun deer season. By shortening the season to a more traditional Thanksgiving-week hunt, the DNR hopes to control the fatal illness, while increasing hunter satisfaction.

Part of the thinking is that the shorter season will make the deer more vulnerable, according to Scott Craven, chairman of the wildlife ecology department in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Wildlife specialists also hope it will minimize competition for hunters’ time from other activities, such as other recreational endeavors, family holiday gatherings and football.

“We’ll have to find out how these changes in regulations affect the population of deer,” says Michael Samuels, a wildlife ecologist at UW-Madison and the Assistant Leader of the USGS-Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.

Initial testing has revealed more genetic connectedness between deer in the Mount Horeb area and those in forested areas to the west than between deer in the Mount Horeb and north toward the Wisconsin River or toward Madison. This type of research tool could help Samuel and other researchers determine whether highways or rivers are barriers to the spread of CWD, and devise new management plans accordingly.