By now you all know about the statewide Chronic Wasting Disease sampling the Department of Natural Resources is doing this fall.

We started collecting samples during Zone T hunt, and hunter willingness to get out and hunt and bring deer in for sampling has been a real shot in the arm for wildlife manager morale.

By the end of this fall, we hope to have 500 samples from each county (or groups of counties in areas like the Milwaukee metropolitan area where deer harvest is low) and 500 from each Deer Management Unit around the CWD Intensive Harvest Zone. Additionally, we’ll test all deer in the Intensive Harvest Zone.

This is the largest effort of its kind in history. When we get done, we will know with a great deal of confidence where CWD does and does not exist in the state. The obvious goal is to let you know if the disease exists where you hunt.

Okay, you say, but how is DNR going to share the results of this sampling effort?

We will construct a special Internet page that shows for each county of the state, the number of samples taken, the number of samples in which CWD was not detected, and any positives, and any inconclusives. (Reasons that a tissue specimen may be inconclusive include undetected gunshot or other damage to the head, deterioration of tissue quality due to a prolonged interval between harvesting of the deer and collecting or testing of the sample, or the appropriate tissues for testing were not collected.)

The Internet page will allow you — whenever its convenient — to track the progress on testing the samples in the county in which you hunt. You should be able to access the page by logging on to the DNR Web site and clicking on Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin. The site will be updated weekly.

If you don’t have Web access — and we know about half of you don’t — you can contact your local DNR office for information. You can access computers at your public library or at DNR Service Centers around the state. And we will, of course, also share results with the news media regularly.

For hunters who offer their deer for the testing program, we have plans to share test results as soon as possible after testing is completed. Hunters whose deer do not test positive or whose deer failed to produce a good lab sample will be notified by post card by March 31 for most of the state samples. Intensive Harvest Zone samples may take somewhat longer.

That post card will remind hunters that the CWD test is not a food safety test. There were no prions found and therefore no evidence that the deer is affected with CWD. All laboratory tests for CWD only assess the presence or absence of a detectable amount of prions in specific tissue at the time the tissue was collected. It is possible a recently infected animal could not test positive because prions have not yet reached a detectable level in the tissue that was tested.

Hunters whose deer test positive will get a telephone call. As part of that call we will offer assistance in disposing of the venison if the hunter so desires, and contact information if the hunter would like to speak to a public health expert.

In addition, hunters who offer their deer’s head for a sample will be able to log into a special Web site for information using the bar code number from their deer, their DNR customer number (from their license or backtag), or the permit number if they used a landowner permit.

We are working with the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to get tests moved through the system as quickly as possible. We hope to have all samples tested by three to six months after the end of Deer Gun Season.

We are doing everything we can to get you the information you want and you deserve. Please remember that CWD testing is clearly of value for disease surveillance to learn where the disease exists. That’s why we are testing so many deer in each county.

Thanks for all you are doing to help us, and let us know if there is some other way we can help share information you need.