Deer hunters group urges DNR to reduce area of target zone

May 16, 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Bob Riepenhoff
Waukesha -- An organization of deer hunters is calling for the state Department of Natural Resources to significantly reduce the scope of its proposed 10-county chronic wasting disease management zone and to delay any disease-control killing until after the fall gun deer season.

Greg Kazmierski, a founder of the Wisconsin Deer Hunters Coalition, made the recommendations Wednesday evening at a DNR hearing on the deadly deer disease at the Waukesha Expo Center.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,400 people attended the hearing, one of five being held around the state and the only one in the Milwaukee area. Bill VanderZouwen, chief of the DNR wildlife ecology section, explained the DNR's plan to contain or possibly eliminate the disease.

The DNR proposes to attempt to kill every deer inside a 287-square-mile "eradication zone" near Mount Horeb, where the fatal brain disease has been confirmed in 14 wild white-tailed deer. The agency is expected to begin issuing permits next week to landowners inside the zone that would allow them or hunters with their permission to shoot deer on their property, VanderZouwen said.

The DNR also has proposed an expanded fall hunt in 10 surrounding counties -- the so-called chronic wasting disease control zone -- where the agency hopes to cut the deer population in half. That hunt, as proposed, would run Oct. 24 through Jan. 31 in 13 deer management units and 10 counties that cover much of the southwestern part of the state.

DNR veterinarian Doris Olander said the agency planned to test 500 deer from each of the deer management units for the disease.

"If another positive is found, we're going to have to do another eradication area and more testing and sampling," she told the crowd.

VanderZouwen said the plan would not succeed unless hunters and landowners "step up to the plate."

"We've never done anything like this in Wisconsin before," he said. "We hope we'll never have to do anything like it again."

But Kazmierski, who was distributing information outlining the coalition's recommendations at the hearing, called the DNR's plan "overkill."

"We're recommending that the CWD management zone be limited to a 60-mile circle centering on the eradication zone, to the nearest county or state highway," he said. "This will split some deer management units, but it will restore some sense of normalcy to almost 4,000 square miles of the state."

The coalition also wants to postpone any killing of deer in both the eradication and disease control zones until after the November gun deer hunt.

"Why not let people enjoy a normal hunting season before getting down to the dirty business of eradication?" Kazmierski asked. "This would allow the DNR and hunters to concentrate on eradication over the winter months when rotting carcasses, spoiled tissue samples and public safety are not as much of an issue."

The coalition, which was formed in March 2001 to represent deer hunters' interests, has about 9,000 members across the state, Kazmierski said.

A final hearing on chronic wasting disease will be held at 7 tonight at Southwest High School in Green Bay.

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