There has never been a confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in Jackson County, but sampling for the disease increased two years ago when a confirmed case was discovered on a game farm in Eau Claire County, just 10 miles from the Jackson and Clark county lines.
“It essentially made Jackson and Clark counties considered CWD-affected counties just because they are within 10 miles of that game farm,” DNR wildlife biologist Scott Roepke said.
This made deer baiting illegal and increased the need to test the deer population in Jackson County for the disease.
“We have not found the disease yet in Jackson County. We are hoping that the disease is not out there, but we are collecting as many samples as we can, surveying for the disease,” Roepke said.
For the first time since CWD was found in Eau Claire County, hunters are able to bait deer this year because there have been no confirmed cases since the positive case in Eau Claire County.
“Baiting and feeding is now legal again in Jackson County where it has been illegal the last two years,” Roepke said. “That was a legislative change. Essentially there was a clause that lifts the baiting and feeding ban after two or three years of the disease not being found. In Jackson and Clark county it has been two years since that game farm positive has been found. We haven’t found a wild positive yet in Jackson County so the ban has been lifted.”
Roepke said that the common symptoms of a deer that has CWD include an emaciated appearance, droopy head or ears, drooling, overall lack of fear of humans and an abnormal behavior in general, but he explained there could always be something else going on.
“Clinical symptoms of CWD are similar to various other diseases, so we always preface this statement with because this deer looks sick doesn’t mean it has CWD. There are many more likely causes of abnormal behavior,” Roepke said.
Even though many other diseases can cause the symptoms, Roepke said it is important to find the cause of the symptoms.
“If hunters see a deer out there that is sick, we do encourage them to harvest it and then we can replace their tag for them. Or if they see a sick deer outside of the hunting season that they contact us. A lot of times we will maybe be able to collect a sample and then submit it to see what is wrong with it,” Roepke said.
The Jackson County Deer Advisory Council (CDAC) is the local entity that sets local hunting regulations, including how the county should handle CWD.
“That is the way that many of the deer hunting regulations are set now, so if the public wants to weigh in on deer management within the county, we encourage those folks to attend the CDAC meetings,” Roepke said. “That committee met back in January to discuss CWD management moving in the future.”
CDAC is made up of various stakeholders in the discussion on controlling the deer population including representatives from the hunting clubs, the forestry department and the transportation department.
“There are various stakeholders that come together and look at where the deer herd is biologically speaking. How is the herd health? How is the population as it is now? Then looking at some of those interactions and making the decision,” CDAC chairman Chris Underwood said.
Underwood and those on the council hold herd health as an important factor when controlling the herd population in Jackson County.
“Chronic Wasting Disease and deer health in general certainly has always been a high priority,” Underwood said explaining that deer are very important to the state of Wisconsin both culturally and economically.
If you bag a deer that you would like to get tested, there are two options in Jackson County. The first is to bring the deer to the Black River Falls DNR office.
“If the hunter either contacts us ahead of time or catches us in the office, we will sample the deer and then the hunter can just provide us the information and leave,” Roepke said.
If the DNR office is not open, a hunter can also submit the deer via a self-service kiosk that will be outside of the office.
“There are complete instructions with a bag for the deer head. All they have to do is fill out their information and leave the head in that box, then we will submit the samples,” Roepke said.
Jon Beck, owner of Hixton Ridge Taxidermy, will also help test a deer for CWD.
Beck has been taking samples since the deer in Eau Claire tested positive for CWD.
“First of all, the main criteria they want is that the deer has to be six months or older. Any fawns that were born this year and harvested, those are too young to test,” Beck said explaining that you will need to provide information on where the deer was harvested and the hunter’s name, address and DNR number.
Beck said the service is completely free and as long as you don’t want to keep the hide, it can be done in 15 minutes.
Roepke encourages anyone that is interested in the Jackson County deer population to attend the next CDAC meeting which will be held Oct. 10 from 7-9 p.m. at the Jackson Electric Cooperative building on Hwy. F.
He also said there are still 2,049 antlerless deer harvest tags remaining for private farmland in Jackson County, but the 200 tags for the forest land on the Eastern side of the county are all sold out.