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Disposing of the deer kill

June 8, 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Denver, CO) by Franzen
At the Foothills Wildlife Research Facility in Fort Collins, Colo. -- the place where chronic wasting disease was first identified decades ago -- officials once conducted what has been called a "grisly" cleanup effort to eradicate the disease. The deer, bighorn sheep and other animals being studied were destroyed. The top 6 inches of soil were hauled away. Buildings were washed with bleach. The place was left vacant for a year. And when new deer were brought back to the pens, they soon became infected with the disease. That's how tough CWD is.

Maybe that's why local officials in Wisconsin are so concerned about burying deer carcasses in nearby landfills. Because of that concern, state officials will start disposal of carcasses by burning them in a pet crematory in Poynette. It's a smart move.

A spokeswoman for Waste Management said the company was satisfied that dead deer can be buried in landfills safely. Nevertheless, state officials said this week there was not enough time to convince local folks of that and decided to go with cremation. Given that hunters are expected to start shooting deer today, the state officials are right.

Still, disposal will remain a problem. The state Department of Natural Resources wants hunters to wipe out the deer herd in an area of southwestern Wisconsin where CWD has been found in several deer.

About 15,000 deer need to be killed. Granted, they won't all be killed this weekend, or even this summer, but it takes the crematory about 12 hours to burn 70 carcasses at a time. There is also a chemical process that could be used down the road, but even that has problems: It leaves "a gooey substance" that will require additional treatment.

The state needs to provide more CWD testing facilities, but it also may have to do more to ensure that deer carcasses are safely disposed of. Maybe what's needed are a few more furnaces.

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