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Low gun deer harvest impacting CWD testing in La Crosse County

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VIROQUA, Wis. (WXOW) --- The Wisconsin DNR reported their preliminary numbers for the nine day, 2019 gun deer hunting season, showing a 25% decrease from 2018 to 2019.

Factors like the weather and a later gun season this year played a role in a smaller harvest, despite a large deer herd throughout the state (1.8-2 million).

"This year, we had the latest possible gun deer season just based on the calendar whereas last year we had the earliest," said Anna Jahns.

Jahns works as Wildlife Technician for the DNR out of their Viroqua office. The nine-year veteran said this tends to happen every six to seven years when gun hunting season goes from earliest to latest.

"This is because the major rut of the whitetail deer tends to happen around mid-November, so the farther we are away from that rut, the less likely we are to see heavy deer movements," said Jahns.

The wildlife technician covers four counties including La Crosse, where CWD has yet to be found.

"We are really hoping, especially, in La Crosse County, to get more deer tested for CWD so, we can reach a quota where we're scientifically able to say whether or not CWD is present in the county," said Jahns. "Currently, we've never detected CWD (chronic wasting disease) in La Crosse County, and with deer numbers down, we're getting fewer samples than expected."

The DNR breaks up the state into four regions. La Crosse, Trempealeau, Jackson, and part of Monroe County fall into the Central Farmland Zone which saw a 20% decrease, the lowest compared to the other three regions.

Vernon and part of Juneau are located in the Southern Farmland Zone and saw a 23% decrease.

The Northern Forest Zone recorded a 38% decrease, and the Central Forest Zone, which has part of Monroe, Juneau, and Jackson County, record a 29% decrease.

A total of 160,769 deer were harvested in 2019 compared to 2018 which had 213,972 deer harvested. Gun license sales were down 2% throughout the state.

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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