Hunters encouraged to have deer harvests tested for CWD

Bowhunting(Wisconsin DNR)
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 2:05 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is asking deer hunters to join in the efforts to protect the state’s deer herd and help slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.

DNR staff say hunters who have their deer tested for CWD play one of the most important roles in monitoring the health of the deer herd. Hunters who have their deer tested for CWD, properly dispose of deer carcass waste and follow baiting and feeding regulations help the DNR monitor the disease and slow its spread.

Testing deer for CWD provides the DNR with data to understand the distribution of CWD in the state and keeps hunters informed about the status of their harvest.

To have a deer tested for CWD, hunters can use the CWD form located in their Go Wild harvest history to expedite the process. The form automatically fills in the hunter’s name, contact information, customer ID number and harvest registration number and also makes it easier to pin the deer harvest using an interactive map.

The DNR offers Four ways to submit a sample:

  • Self-service kiosks where hunters can submit their deer’s head for testing
  • A network of cooperating meat processors, taxidermists and other businesses who can assist with CWD sampling
  • By-appointment sampling with the hunter’s local wildlife management DNR staff
  • Kits for hunters to extract lymph node tissue themselves to submit to the DNR for testing

Hunters are encouraged to know their county’s baiting and feeding restrictions. Currently, 58 counties do not allow it. Even where baiting and feeding are allowed, the DNR encourages hunters to reconsider using these practices to reduce the risk for disease transmission. Large concentrations of animals in one area increase the risk of spreading infection.

CWD is an always-fatal contagious neurological disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk, moose and caribou. The disease can spread through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, urine or feces. It can also spread indirectly through exposure to a contaminated environment. CWD prions are extremely resilient, and they can stay in the soil for a long time, making containment of an affected area a challenge.

The disease can have an incubation period of over a year, meaning infected deer can appear healthy for several months before showing signs of illness. When symptoms do appear, CWD causes drastic weight loss, drooping of the head and ears, loss of coordination, excessive salivation and no fear of humans.

CWD testing, proper carcass disposal and following baiting and feeding regulations are three key ways to slow the spread. The DNR’s guide to slowing the spread of CWD provides even more ways hunters can help.

More information about how to prevent the spread of CWD is available on the DNR webpage here.