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CWD testing
Wisconsin has been testing deer for chronic wasting disease since it was discovered in 2002. Jerry Davis|State Journal archives

Toss those latex gloves, shout "I told you so!" and tell the state veterinarian and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to quit fretting about chronic wasting disease.

Why? The CWD national emergency is over.

Don't you remember? The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared CWD a crisis in 2001.

Well, it's over now, so quit scratching your head. According to the 2012 budget report from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, CWD is no longer cause for nationwide angst.

Wait. Put your gloves back on.

Upon further review, it's now our problem, not the country's.

In explaining its proposed $14 million cut for CWD monitoring nationwide, the APHIS report reads: "Since these are local or regional disease spread issues, state and local governments should assume a more active role, and better anticipate and plan for future needs."

Imagine that. CWD was a national emergency 10 years ago, before it was found east of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin and Illinois in 2002. Since then, it's also been found in New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Minnesota.

Further, CWD infection rates in Wisconsin again set records in 2010, and Illinois found new cases farther west and south than before. In fact, as of late April, 15 states and Canadian provinces had CWD in wild deer, elk or moose.

How does a disease deteriorate from national scourge to localized rash while increasing in density and range? And how can USDA-APHIS suggest state and local governments do a better job of disease planning?

I concede we've been distracted by wars, recession and earn-a-buck spasms, but I don't recall the feds predicting the following infection-rate increases for Wisconsin's CWD core area from 2004 to 2010:

-- adult does, 4 percent to nearly 8 percent;

-- 1.5-year-old bucks, 2 percent to nearly 9 percent;

-- adult bucks,10 percent to more than 16 percent.

The only deer group not growing sicker through 2010 was 1.5-year-old does. Even so, their infection rate worsened from about 3 percent in 2004 to more than 6 percent in 2009 before registering a fluky 2 percent in 2010.

Either way, CWD keeps worsening, not just in the core area, but in nearby less-diseased counties, too. In 2010 in Sauk County, DNR tests found 16 CWD cases, or 27 percent of the county's 60 cases since 2002. And in Richland County, DNR tests found 11 new cases, 52 percent of the county's 21 total cases.

Barstool biologists might dismiss these as outliers, but even with fewer tests in both counties the DNR found more sick deer in 2010 than 2009.

-- In Sauk County, 913 tests in 2010 revealed 16 CWD cases, compared to 1,100 tests and 12 CWD cases in 2009. That's 33 percent more sick deer from 17 percent fewer tests.

-- In Richland County, 660 tests in 2010 revealed 11 CWD cases, compared to 933 tests and seven CWD cases in 2009. That's 57 percent more CWD cases from 29 percent fewer tests.

State legislators and DNR administrators should stop ignoring or downplaying those trends. They should also quit pretending there's a CWD barrier along the Illinois-Wisconsin border. One of the region's worst CWD hotspots borders Interstate 39/90 on both sides of the state line. Also, one of Illinois' new cases appeared in Jo Daviess County, which is about as close to Mount Horeb's core CWD zone as it is to Illinois' core zone near Rockford.

So, when folks suggest letting CWD "run its course," ask them to define the term. This disease shows no sign of hitting plateaus. Do they believe CWD will act different in Illinois-Wisconsin whitetails than in Wyoming's South Converse mule deer herd, the world's sickest herd?

CWD has increased in that herd almost yearly the past decade, and 48 percent of its hunter-killed deer in 2010 were infected. At the same time, muley numbers fell 50 percent, even without antlerless harvests. It's now 56 percent below the 7,000 goal, and still dropping.

By ignoring facts and challenges, lawmakers and DNR administrators ill-serve all Wisconsinites, including those they're now foolishly trying to soothe. Such pathetic management makes it easier for USDA-APHIS to cut CWD funding.

Contact Patrick Durkin, a free-lance outdoors writer, at or write to him at 721 Wesley St., Waupaca, WI 54981.


Contact Patrick Durkin, a free-lance outdoors writer, at or write to him at 721 Wesley St., Waupaca, WI 54981.