MADISON — Extended hunting season and reduced white-tailed deer population goals in diseased areas are tools state wildlife managers are proposing to help manage chronic wasting disease under proposed rules that are the topic of a series of hearings scheduled across the state March 17-19.

“Lowering the deer population in the CWD areas will help prevent the spread of the disease, which we hope will lead to eventual eradication of this problem,” said Tom Hauge, director of Department of Natural Resources wildlife management program. “Science tells us that CWD is transmissable between animals. Larger populations will have more animal contact and more animals disperse outward each year. This could spread the disease farther and farther.”

An extended hunting season and the lower population goals are among a number of proposals rule changes and accompanying environmental impact statement (EIS) that the public will have an opportunity to comment at the hearings.

The full text of the season extension and other proposal along with the EIS are available on the DNR Web site, at DNR service centers, public libraries and by writing to Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Wildlife Management, PO Box 7921, 101 S. Webster, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

Population control is one important element in halting the spread of this disease and goes hand-in-hand with the proposal to ban baiting and feeding, said Hauge.

“By reducing the populations and the artificial gathering points and we’ll be taking important steps to break the cycle of spreading disease between sick and healthy animals. We need both of these elements in our CWD management toolbox.”

The proposal calls for a zero over winter population goal in identified CWD eradication zones; a less than 10 per square mile goal in an intensive harvest zone immediately surrounding an eradication zone; and a 10 deer per square mile goal in a CWD herd reduction zone.

The eradication zone, intensive harvest zone and herd reduction zone would be established by emergency rules each spring. The boundaries may change based on results of each year’s CWD testing and on evolving CWD management strategies and research.

Earn-a-buck regulations would exist in CWD units until populations reached 5 deer per square mile in the intensive harvest zone and 15 deer per square mile in the herd reduction zone. When those goals are reached, the earn-a-buck requirement would be dropped.

Seasons in the CWD intensive harvest zone would begin in late October and run continuously through January 31. In areas outside of the intensive harvest zone identified as the herd reduction zone there would be a four-day antlerless gun hunt in October and the regular gun hunting season would run from the Saturday before Thanksgiving continuously through January 3.

Hauge noted that the extended seasons proposed in the rule package are separate from a suggestion by wildlife managers at the February Natural Resources Board meeting that the board consider a statewide 23-day gun deer season. There currently is no rule proposal for a statewide 23-day season and the idea, says Hauge, was presented to the NRB as a topic for consideration and future discussion.

[EDITORS’ ADVISORY: NEW CWD PUBLICATION – Feb. 28, 2003, marked the one year anniversary of the discovery of chronic wasting disease in southern Wisconsin’s wild white-tailed deer population. To recognize state actions regarding CWD taken to date, the Department of Natural Resources released a new publication titled Chronic Wasting Disease Update (This is a portable document format (PDF) file. Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view and print .pdf files. To download Adobe Acrobat for free, please see the DNR Download Page.) The new publication outlines, in timeline format, CWD actions taken to date and describes actions in progress that will ultimately lead to a long-term CWD management plan for the state. Though the publication mainly focuses on CWD actions related to disease management in the deer herd, it also provides human health and captive cervid updates. The Chronic Wasting Disease Update will be inserted in six weekly newspapers, circulated to about 20,000 people, in the eradication and management zone areas during the anniversary week. These newspapers include: Dane County News, Mount Horeb Mail, Sauk Prairie Star, Middleton Times Tribune, Verona Press, and the Dodgeville Chronicle Remaining copies of the publication will be distributed by the department at upcoming sport shows, expositions, and at the CWD rule/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) hearings around the state. It is also available on the DNR’s CWD Web page. Click on “Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin” and then “Reference Documents.”]