Eradication hunt finally gets under way

June 9, 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Bob Riepenhoff
After several delays, a Department of Natural Resources plan to attempt to kill all deer inside the chronic wasting disease eradication zone finally got under way Saturday.

The DNR had initially announced that kill permits would be issued to landowners inside the 361-square-mile eradication zone near Mount Horeb as early as May 6. But objections from some residents, problems finding safe ways to dispose of carcasses and other concerns resulted in delays and a scaled-back plan.

Plans now call for one-week of deer shooting this month and in July, August and September. The first one-week shooting period began on Saturday. Tom Hauge, director of wildlife management for the DNR, has said that the plan will provide a break from the shooting and "some normalcy" for landowners inside the zone, especially during the summer months.

The DNR wants to try and eliminate all deer inside the eradication zone, about 15,000 animals. But officials say that it is unlikely that landowners, the people they allow to shoot deer on their land or state sharpshooters will kill massive numbers of deer this spring and summer.

Growing foliage and the objections from some people inside the zone have ended hopes for a big early kill.

Officials now expect that only about 500 deer will be shot prior to the beginning of an expanded fall hunt that will run in the eradication zone and 10 surrounding counties Oct. 24 through Jan. 31. The bulk of the remainder of the killing is expected to take place during the fall hunt.

Last week, about 575 landowners in the eradication zone -- in portions of Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties -- had received special permits to kill deer by midweek. The DNR is giving 20 or more permits to to each landowner who wants to participate in the eradication attempt.

The DNR is processing hundreds of additional landowner requests for kill permits, and about 300 other landowners have expressed interest in allowing sharpshooters to kill deer on their land. In all, about 1,400 landowners have either sought kill permits or expressed interest in sharpshooters, a DNR spokesman said.

The shooting is part of the state's effort to control the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer. The discovery of the fatal deer disease in three deer shot last November near Mount Horeb was announced on Feb. 28.

All deer shot in the eradication zone must be taken to collection points near Barneveld and Mazomanie, where technicians will remove their heads for testing. The DNR will test deer that shooters want to eat. The other carcasses will be incinerated.

Initial plans had called for putting some carcasses in a landfill. But after some expressed concerns about landfill safety, the DNR announced Thursday that the carcasses would be incinerated by Midwest Cremation Service of Wisconsin, a pet crematory in Poynette.

This spring, more than 500 deer were shot and tested for the disease, and the total number of deer that have tested positive for the disease in Wisconsin is now 18.

In a related matter, last month the Wisconsin Conservation Congress executive council has voted to recommend that the state ban deer baiting and feeding for a three-year period while experts determine how chronic wasting disease is spread.

Congress Chairman Steve Oestreicher announced the decision at the Natural Resources Board meeting in Minocqua on May 22.

Baiting and feeding are both currently legal.

Although the exact way chromic wasting disease is transmitted among deer is unknown, the spread has been linked to high concentrations of deer and animal-to-animal contact.

The Natural Resources Board will get another update on chronic wasting disease at its next meeting in Racine on June 26. The board may take up the issue of baiting and feeding at that time.

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