LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Since the late 1990’s, the Wisconsin DNR has monitored the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in the state’s whitetail deer population. Today, 55 counties are considered affected by CWD, including La Crosse.
“It’s a serious problem and it’s not going away on its own,” DNR CWD Biologist Terry Shaurette said.
As of yet, there are no reported cases in humans, but the prion disease is a death sentence for whitetail deer.
“There are no signs of it until that very late stage, which can be when the deer is five to six years old,” Shaurette said.
Retired DNR Wildlife Expert Mike Foy says the state could be doing more to prevent the spread of CWD. On Wednesday, he spoke at Viterbo University’s Reinhart Center on a new proposal to halt the disease.
“The active management, except for new outbreaks, has declined,” Foy said. “…partly for lack of good ideas as to what to do, frankly.”
Foy’s proposal is called Payments4Positives. $1000 paid to each hunter if they kill a deer that tests positive for CWD. Landowners would also get the same kickback.
“Our goal is to get the sick deer out of the population,” Foy explained. “We need to somehow unleash the 633,000 deer hunters we have licensed in this state.”
Part of the plan also proposes giving $300 to small businesses that take samples for testing.
It’s unclear what effect this might have on the disease’s prevalence. Currently, testing is not mandatory in Wisconsin and an incentive program like this hasn’t been tried before.
Still, Shaurette said the proposal might be one of the better new ideas.
“The main thing we want to do right now is to slow down that spread and this is something that could definitely work for that,” Shaurette said.
If Wisconsin is to address a growing issue with CWD, Foy says it’s time to be more aggressive in that fight.
Foy has been making this presentation across the state with another retired DNR Wildlife Expert, Tom Hauge, who was unable to speak at Viterbo Wednesday. They hope to work with the governor and legislature on Payment4Positives.
Foy admitted the plan would likely have a limited budget. For perspective, if it would have been in place over the last hunting season, payments would total $597,000 just for the hunters.