MADISON – The perimeter fence was intentionally cut at Buckhorn Flats, an Almond hunting preserve infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), natural resources and agriculture officials reported Friday. State officials are concerned because of possible exposure of wild (free-ranging) deer to the disease.
It is unknown when the fence was cut or if any deer are missing. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shooters will immediately begin shooting deer around the borders of the property.
“This was not an accident. There was roughly a three-foot-square area of the woven wire fence cut and wired back to form an opening, ” said DNR CWD Project Leader Alan Crossley.
State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt, of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), said that about 40 bucks are in the hunting preserve, based on earlier statements from the owner. Deer in preserves roam free over a large fenced-in area, rather than being in pens, so it is difficult to get a detailed count. There are about 79 does, fawns, and yearling bucks fenced in smaller breeding pens on the farm. The fence around that area was not breached.
Hall reported the breach in the fence to the DNR on Thursday, Jan. 12. Within hours, DNR personnel were checking the area around the property for escaped deer, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian working with DATCP was on site to inspect inside the fence and interview Hall.
Crossley said DNR staff will begin shooting deer outside the fence late Friday; all deer shot will be tested for CWD.
Wisconsin’s first case of CWD in a farm-raised animal was in a hunter-harvested deer from Hall’s preserve in September 2002, seven months after CWD was first diagnosed in the state’s wild deer herd. Most of the other 19 animals from the herd that have tested positive since then were also trophy deer shot by hunters and routinely tested for CWD, as state law requires.
Although his herd has been quarantined since the original discovery of CWD, the quarantine required only that no live animals leave his property. He continued hunts through 2004, but in 2005, was no longer permitted to conduct hunts because his 59-acre preserve did not meet a requirement that hunting preserves include at least 80 acres.
The State Veterinarian ordered Hall’s deer to be killed for testing in July 2003. The order has been in litigation since then, but DATCP, USDA and Hall recently signed an agreement under which the deer will be destroyed in the near future. Hall is to be compensated for the animals.
Veterinarians and inspectors from the USDA and DATCP have monitored Hall’s property regularly since the original discovery, and every deer has been tested for CWD that was shot or found dead and in good enough condition to sample.
To date, no CWD-positive deer have been found in the wild in central Wisconsin, where the hunting preserve is located. Since the discovery of CWD on Hall’s property, the DNR has tested 738 deer from Portage County and 1,078 from neighboring Waushara County.
The DATCP and DNR share responsibility for white-tailed deer farms and hunting preserves. DATCP registers the farms and administers the CWD monitoring program and other health programs. Because the fencing protects the free-ranging white-tail herd that falls under DNR authority, that agency regulates fences around these properties.
Law enforcement authorities are investigating. Anyone with information that may aid in identifying the person(s) responsible is encouraged to call the Portage County Sheriff’s Department at 715-346-1400 or the DNR Poacher Hotline at 1-800-TIP-WDNR.