Hunters in our area didn’t hear much about chronic-wasting disease during the recent nine-day gun deer season, and maybe that’s great news.
But, we’re concerned that La Crosse County seems to be left off the map by state officials who are responsible for stemming the spread of the disease.
Here’s one example: There were dozens of CWD testing stations across Wisconsin, where hunters could have their deer checked for the disease.
There wasn’t a single testing station in our county.
Representatives of the state Department of Natural Resources say La Crosse is not one of the counties being targeted for surveillance this year. Hunters were encouraged to visit a testing station in another county or ask for help from a local wildlife biologist.
The DNR informed hunters that some of the stations were open “by appointment only” or “open only on Nov 19.”
With 43 Wisconsin counties designated as being affected by CWD, that’s a bit disconcerting.
In addition, there hasn’t been a CWD survey conducted in La Crosse County since 2008.
Here’s how the DNR responds: “Since 2008 we have become more efficient in disease detection surveillance, which is what previous statewide surveillance efforts were designed to do. Research out of UW-Madison, informed by the years of CWD sampling data collected in Wisconsin, identified more efficient methods to detect disease where it is not known to exist, including weighted surveillance and sick deer response. These methods place an emphasis on the fact that adult bucks and sick deer present the highest probability for detecting CWD in areas where it is not previously known to exist.”
We agree that it makes sense to put the most resources where the biggest problem has been.
But it feels like the lack of focus in our area could become something we eventually regret.
Two cases of CWD were found recently not far from La Crosse, in southeast Minnesota. The cases, found between Lanesboro and Preston, were the first discovered in that area. It should be noted that Minnesota tested a third of all deer harvested in southeast Minnesota this fall – the type of aggressive approach we’d prefer seeing in Wisconsin, too.
CWD is defined as a neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies – and it’s fatal to the animal.
At this point, we’re not sure whether it can be transmitted to humans.
But, from a public health and safety standpoint, we favor more aggressive testing to limit the potential for spreading the disease.