(Published Feb. 1, 2007, 10:38 a.m.)
The Department of Natural Resources will reduce the deer herd at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest as part of the agency's ongoing chronic wasting disease (CWD) control efforts. The effort began late last month, according to a DNR news release. The DNR is using agency sharp-shooters to cull the herd and, weather permitting, plans to continue through March 2007.
Five CWD positive deer were recently identified in the 6,400 acre Walworth county portion of the state forest located in Walworth, Jefferson and Waukesha counties. These five positives are the northernmost detections of the disease in Walworth county. All of the known CWD positive deer shot in the Kettle Moraine were shot by hunters during the deer season.
"Like stamping out sparks from a forest fire to contain its spread, wildlife disease experts recommend preventing the spread of CWD by eliminating outbreaks near the edge of the known infection area," said CWD Team Supervisor Tami Ryan. "This is a vital part of Wisconsin's CWD management strategy."
Ryan noted that deer culled from the park will be tested to better define the disease's extent and severity.
"Herd reduction is a standard disease control strategy in wild, free-ranging deer when there is neither a treatment nor vaccine available to control a disease outbreak. This strategy removes sick animals from the landscape, reduces deer density and may minimize the accumulation of CWD prions in the environment," Ryan pointed out.
"Our agency is committed to halting the spread of CWD and we feel this is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate our seriousness, as the forest's managers, to reduce the local deer herd and help ensure the deer herd is healthy," she added.
Forest superintendent Paul Sandgren said bait sites will be used to attract deer to specified areas and for the safety of visitors.
"Bait sites to attract deer for safe and effective shooting will be maintained well away from heavily used roads and trails, both inside and outside the forest, to mitigate concerns and the potential for conflict with area residents and winter park users," said Sandgren.
The Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit is located in the CWD Herd Reduction Zone (HRZ), an area covering all or part of 19 counties which serves as a buffer between the smaller CWD Eradication Zone (DEZ) and the rest of the state.
The five known CWD positive deer were shot about four miles north of the DEZ border.
CWD is a neurological disease found in elk, moose and deer. The disease-causing agent is an infectious abnormal protein, called a CWD prion, which is smaller than a virus. Disease-causing prions enter brain cells and convert normal prions into abnormally folded prions. The abnormally folded prions accumulate in the brain, causing the death of brain cells and development of microscopic holes.
CWD is transmitted from deer to deer, either through direct contact or body fluids contaminating the environment. A recent study in Colorado has provided strong evidence that CWD can be transmitted via saliva and researchers are also concerned about feces being a source of disease.
Since 2002, more than 115,000 wild, white-tailed deer have been tested statewide for CWD (4408 from Walworth County) with 707 testing positive (23 from Walworth County). Of deer testing positive, 698 were from the DEZ and 27 from the HRZ.
The eastern DEZ covers 462 square miles and encompasses a portion of southwestern Walworth County and a portion of southeastern Rock County.