MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials told the agency’s board on Wednesday that they have pushed back the release of updates to their chronic wasting disease plan to this spring.
The DNR has been operating under a 15-year plan that expires in 2025. It calls for reducing local deer herds in isolated areas of infection but centers mostly on monitoring the disease’s spread. The agency’s board in December 2015 ordered a review of the plan by this December amid concerns that the disease has been spreading unchecked.
DNR Big Game Section Chief Bob Nack told the board during a meeting Wednesday in Black River Falls that Gov. Scott Walker’s changes to the state’s CWD tactics have prompted a new approach to the review. Facing mounting criticism over the disease’s spread, the governor in May called for more studies on CWD and guidelines for state deer farms. He also tasked the DNR with soliciting more input from hunters, landowners and farmers on plan updates.
Nack said the DNR now plans to convene an advisory committee of stakeholders to offer recommendations on plan updates. The committee will include representatives from the Conservation Congress, a group of sportsmen who advise the DNR, wildlife associations and the state’s Chippewa and Ho-Chunk tribes.
The committee will meet three times before the end of the year, he said. The county deer advisory councils will add their input in January. The DNR will present the new plan to the board in March.
Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of deer, causing the animals to grow thin, act strangely and eventually die.
The ailment was first detected in Wisconsin in 2002. The DNR initially tried to contain the disease by calling on hunters to kill as many deer as possible but backed off that approach in 2010 after intense public backlash. Test results released last March showed that 9.4 percent of the 3,133 deer tested in 2015 were infected, the highest prevalence rate since CWD was discovered in the state.
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