, ,

2017 Was Near-Record Year For CWD From Deer Farming, Hunting Operations

60 Deer Tested Positive For Fatal Brain Disease At Hunting Ranches

Deer running across snow.
Rambling Dream (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Wisconsin’s captive deer operations had a near-record rate of chronic wasting disease infections in 2017.

There were 60 deer from hunting ranches across the state that tested positive for CWD last year. The only year with a higher total of infected deer at captive operations was in 2006 when a total of 61 tested positive.

Darlene Konkle, assistant state veterinarian for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said the spike in 2006 came after a deer breeding facility was depopulated, whereas 2017’s infected deer came from game farms already known to have CWD on the premises.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“We have not had a depopulation in 2017 but we do have several hunting ranches that are positive for CWD and some of those are increasing the rate in which they are taking out animals,” Konkle said.

So far this year, nine deer have tested positive for CWD at deer breeding facilities and hunting ranches. The latest comes from a deer farm in Washington County, which has been quarantined. Konkle said the agency is working with the deer farming and hunting ranch industries to contain the spread of CWD.

“We’re constantly re-evaluating our monitoring and status programs and our licensing programs and looking at risk and looking at new information as we get it as well,” said Konkle.

In 2016, Gov. Scott Walker ordered DATCP to create best practices for deer farms, and tasked the state Department of Natural Resources to conduct deer farm fencing every two years. Earlier that year, state Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and former Democratic state Rep. Chris Danou had called on Walker to enact tighter regulations for the state’s deer farms and ranches.

“If you have a farm that has this disease on, it they shouldn’t be able to operate,” said Milroy. “They jeopardize millions and millions of dollars in Wisconsin’s economy not only for our hunting heritage but also for the other close to 400 deer farms that aren’t infected.”

According to DATCP, there are 376 deer farms in Wisconsin and 19 of them have tested positive for CWD since 2001. To date, 11 captive herds have been depopulated including a 2015 case in Eau Claire County in which the state paid the owner $300,000 for the animals that were killed.