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Test for Mad Deer Disease

Outdoors
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Minn., Mich. step up testing for wasting disease

By GARY GERHARDT
Scripps Howard News Service
August 20, 2002

- Wildlife agencies in Minnesota and Michigan are planning to test thousands
of deer and elk taken by hunters this season for chronic wasting disease.

In neighboring Wisconsin, 24 cases of the deadly, brain-wasting disease in
deer and elk have been found this year in wild animals.

That was a shock to Midwestern officials because CWD had never been seen
outside Western states and Canada. Then, suddenly it jumped an entire state
and the Mississippi River and surfaced in Wisconsin.

Hoping to wipe out the disease, wildlife and agriculture officials in
Wisconsin said they will kill 25,000 animals in a 374-square-mile region
this year.

Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources,
said Monday, "Obviously we're bothered by the situation in Wisconsin. Since
we share a common border, we're announcing a surveillance and response plan
... in case CWD is found in Michigan."

He said they will ask hunters in counties adjacent to Wisconsin to submit
the heads of their animals. It's felt there will be enough voluntary
compliance that they can avoid mandating that heads be turned in.

He said the department wants to test a minimum of 2,000 white-tailed deer
and 50 elk in 40 counties over a three-year period.

There are approximately 1.8 million white-tailed deer in Michigan. Annually,
800,000 hunters harvest 440,000 while pumping about $500 million in direct
revenue into the state.

In Minnesota, the surveillance effort calls for testing 5,000
hunter-harvested deer this fall.

Last year they tested 45 deer.

"In the last couple of years, we've concentrated on testing sick deer we
found, but none were positive for CWD," said Dennis Stauffer, spokesman for
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"When CWD leaped from Nebraska and South Dakota to Wisconsin, we took notice
and started on plans not only to handle the disease if it shows up in the
wild, but the Department of Agriculture is working on regulations for the
transportation of ranch elk and deer as well."

He said like Wisconsin and Michigan, big game hunting pours hundreds of
millions of dollars into the state's economy.

"We have 450,000 hunters who take about 250,000 animals annually, he said.

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(Contact Gary Gerhardt of the Rocky Mountain News at
http://www.rockymountainnews.com.)

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