Game farm under quarantine after CWD found

October 20, 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Bob Riepenhoff 

Chronic wasting disease was found on a second Wisconsin game farm and in nine more wild deer, state officials announced last week.

The captive deer, a mature doe on a farm owned by James Hirschboeck, of Eagle, tested positive for the deadly brain disease after it was killed Sept. 30.

Hirschboeck's game farm, which has about 120 deer, has been placed under quarantine by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Agriculture department spokesman Lisa Hull said the agency believes the deer moved among three game farms, Hirschboeck's and two others that also were quarantined earlier. The other farms are owned by Wayne Kuhnke, of Delavan, in Walworth County, and Stan Hall, of Portage County. Hull said it was "highly likely" that the department would kill all of the deer on the three farms as a precaution.

Earlier last week, state officials quarantined a fourth game farm, this one near Oregon in southern Dane County, that also might be infected with the disease.

Records show that that game farm, owned by Mark and Doug Deegan, sold a buck to Hall's Portage County game farm, where a buck tested positive for the disease last month. It was unclear what would happen to the deer at the Dane County farm.

Deer farms to be inspected

In a related development, Department of Natural Resources officials said wardens will begin inspecting deer farms across the state to see if they are at risk for contracting the disease.

State officials first announced the discovery of chronic wasting disease in February near Mount Horeb, where 40 wild deer have tested positive for the disease so far.

The outbreak prompted the DNR to propose killing all deer -- about 25,000 animals -- in a 389-square-mile area of Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties where the disease has been found, plus another 70,000 in the surrounding 10 counties to control the disease.

The DNR also announced last week that nine of 358 deer shot during the special August shoot in the area had tested positive, bringing the total to 40. One of the deer was shot about one mile northwest of Cross Plains and was close enough to the boundary of the zone that it was expanded by 22 square miles.

The DNR has widened its eradication zone by 43% since May as more cases have been found.

Additional tests approved

In another development, Gov. Scott McCallum announced last week that an additional 200,000 government approved tests for chronic wasting disease will be available to deer hunters this fall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to provide greater lab capacity to accommodate expected demand from deer hunters who want to know whether deer they kill are infected with the fatal brain disease, McCallum said.

Before the announcement, officials had said that Wisconsin's testing capacity would barely accommodate the DNR plan to test 50,000 deer shot by hunters across the state this fall to determine the extent of the disease.

McCallum's announcement brings in six newly certified labs and 17 added shifts in existing labs across the country.

A total of 444,384 deer were killed in the 2001 season and 615,393 were killed the year before.

State officials have been lobbying for more testing for months.

Deer hunting license sales are down an average of 22%, compared with this time last year.

Giving hunters the option to test their own deer, rather than waiting months for state surveillance results, could spur more people to hunt this fall, many believe.

"It creates hunter confidence," DNR Secretary Darrell Bazzell said at a meeting in Mount Horeb last week. "Hunters have been telling us consistently that to bring that venison home, they want a test."

Bazzell estimated that the test may cost $50 to $75.

Risk termed 'very low'

Also last week, a panel of University of Wisconsin-Madison experts led by Chancellor John D. Wiley acknowledged that, although chronic wasting disease poses a potential health threat to humans, the risk of transmission to humans is low.

Chronic wasting disease is caused by prions, abnormal protein that destroys brain tissue in deer.

"Finding it in meat should be a very, very low risk," Dennis Maki, an expert on infectious diseases said of prions.

The World Health Organization advises people not to eat any part of a deer suspected of having the disease; or the brain, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes or spinal cord of any deer.

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