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Great Lakes Article:

Deer disease spread may widen
Hunters could have disposed of infected carcasses, DNR says


Hunters may have unknowingly transported a fatal brain disease to other Wisconsin counties, and the protein that causes the disease was dumped in the environment, a state wildlife administrator said Wednesday.

Based on hunting license records, including bonus tags issued for the area, the Department of Natural Resources knows that people from every county have hunted in the 361-square-mile area of southwest Wisconsin where 18 infected deer were discovered, said Sarah Shapiro Hurley, deputy administrator for the agency's land division.

What the DNR doesn't know is whether those hunters killed any deer infected with chronic wasting disease and, if they did, what happened to parts of the carcass, including the head, that contain the deadly infectious agents, she said.

"The risk is clearly there that someone took a carcass from that area, took it home and disposed of it," she said. "There was an opportunity for this to move around with carcasses."

For example, if a carcass from a diseased deer shot near Mount Horeb a couple of years ago was tossed into the woods near Rhinelander for disposal, the disease could be in the north woods, waiting to infect deer if it hasn't already, Shapiro Hurley said.

So far, there is no evidence the disease is elsewhere in Wisconsin.

The DNR believes the disease may have gotten into the herd in southwest Wisconsin as early as 1997, but it doesn't know how.

Hunters often butcher their own deer at home, removing the meat but throwing away the skeleton, the head, the spinal column and the bones, the most infectious parts of deer with the disease, Shapiro Hurley said.

Of the 1,000 deer tested for chronic wasting disease after hunting seasons since 1999 in various parts of Wisconsin, only three killed near Mount Horeb last fall had the disease, the DNR has said.

Since then, in a special hunt of more than 500 deer during the spring, another 15 diseased deer were found in an eradication area of Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties.

The DNR plans to test for the disease in at least 40,000 deer shot by hunters this fall in all of Wisconsin's 72 counties. Most of the counties will each contribute about 500 deer.

The testing should determine whether the disease has spread much beyond southwest Wisconsin. There could be another area of chronic wasting elsewhere in the state, but officials won't know until next year, Shapiro Hurley said.

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