abc
QUICK LINKS:

Wis. Democrats Demand DNR Do More to Stop CWD

Updated: 12/18/2013 5:30 PM
Created: 12/18/2013 1:08 PM WDIO.com
By: TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democrats on the state Assembly's natural resources committee demanded Wednesday that state wildlife officials step up the fight against chronic wasting disease, tearing the scab off a bitter decade-old debate over how best to handle the fatal brain ailment.

They criticized the Department of Natural Resources during a hearing on deer management for bowing to public pressure to quit trying to reduce the deer herd in hopes of slowing the disease's spread.

"At some point ... you need to suck it up and deal with it," committee member Chris Danou, D-Trempeleau, told DNR officials. "The passive approach just isn't going to work. Just because some people are griping, we're going to let it spread? What are we going to do? Just watch it happen?"

CWD produces microscopic holes in cervids' brain tissue, causing weight loss, tremors, strange behavior and eventually death. The disease was first detected in Wisconsin near Mount Horeb in 2002. The discovery sent a shock wave through the state, known around the world for its deer hunting traditions.

The DNR's reaction remains a sore spot among hunters. The agency immediately adopted a plan that called for reducing the local herd to slow the disease's spread, employing sharpshooters and asking hunters and landowners to kill as many deer as possible in the area.

The strategy turned into a public relations disaster. Landowners and hunters refused to get on board, calling herd reduction unattainable and a waste of deer. A 2006 audit found the number of deer in the area had actually increased.

The DNR has since turned to a strategy of testing dead deer for the disease, tracking the disease's locations and gauging its prevalence. Texas deer researcher James Kroll backed up those tactics in a 2012 review of Wisconsin DNR policies he produced for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, saying the state should take a passive approach.

DNR Wildlife Health Section Chief Tami Ryan told the Assembly's natural resources committee that the disease continues to spread, noting that 20 percent of bucks and 9 percent of does in the Mount Horeb area now have it. The disease zone has grown to include southeastern Wisconsin, she said, adding that the agency has recorded localized outbreaks in the state's northwestern and central regions.

"We continue to see the disease increase in intensity and geographic distribution," she said. "We have not been able to contain the disease."

That left minority Democrats on the panel shaking their heads. They pointed to a letter University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife ecologist Tim Van Deelen sent to state Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, earlier this month that called the DNR's passive approach "nothing more than a decision to let the problem grow in order to avoid controversy rather than to commit to more experimentation with disease control and eradication."

"I am deeply concerned we are fiddling while Rome burns," Clark said.

DNR Lands Division Administrator Kurt Thiede said the public won't support another herd reduction push.

"What we are dealing with here in Wisconsin is a public that doesn't have the stomach or support," Thiede said.

At one point the committee's chairman, Al Ott, R-Forest Junction, told Clark that he and his fellow Democrats should help the DNR win over public opinion by putting out press releases demanding herd reduction.

"Call for those drastic moves," Ott said, "and see what kind of reaction you get."

The committee didn't take any action.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Front Page

  • Special Report: Pattie's Journey

    A local woman shares her journey in the fight against breast cancer.  She's sharing the struggle of letting go of what she can't control and reclaiming what cancer strips away.

  • E-Cigarette Business Booming as FDA Proposes New Regulations

    Regulating the sale and use of electronic cigarettes is the goal of new rules proposed by the Food and Drug Administration Thursday. If approved, e-cigarette sales would be banned to people under age 18, a warning label would be placed on the devices, and manufacturers would be required to tell the FDA what's in their products.

  • Cancellations & Closures

    We've received a few event cancellations due to the snow.  To have your event added to the list, email news@wdio.com.

  • Gregory Arthur Thurston Man Missing in Itasca Co.

    Itasca County Sheriff's Office is asking for your help in finding a missing man, Gregory Arthur Thurston.  The 51-year-old man was last seen around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday on foot in rural Bigfork near County Road 52.

  • Dining Out for Life in Duluth

    Eating at one of a half-dozen Duluth restaurants today can help Minnesotans living with HIV/AIDS.  The "Dining Out for Life" event raises money for the Aliveness Project.

 

Winter Weather Advisory

MN AREAS AFFECTED: Carlton, South St. Louis
Expires: 4/25/2014 12:00 AM

Winter Storm Warning

MN AREAS AFFECTED: Southern Lake, North Shore
Expires: 4/25/2014 7:00 AM

Winter Weather Advisory

MN AREAS AFFECTED: Central St. Louis; Koochiching; North St. Louis
Expires: 4/25/2014 7:00 AM

Winter Storm Warning

MN AREAS AFFECTED: Northern Cook, Northern Lake; Southern Cook, North Shore
Expires: 4/25/2014 12:00 PM

Flood Warning

MN AREAS AFFECTED: Aitkin; Crow Wing
Expires: 3/31/2014 7:00 PM

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement