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On May 2, 2018, Governor Walker announced aggressive new actions by his administration to combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) among Wisconsin’s deer herd.

After several years of scientific study and broad stakeholder engagement among sportsmen and deer farmers, the Governor concluded new steps were necessary to address the real threat CWD poses to the state’s deer herd.

The plan outlined here recognizes the role both hunters and farmers play in preventing the spread of CWD, and that both communities are deeply invested in ensuring the long-term health of the herd.

Though these steps are aggressive, they represent a balanced approach build on the shared responsibility of both hunters and deer farmers to prevent the spread of CWD. 

Step 1: Enhanced Fencing

The Governor directed the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to create an emergency rule requiring enhanced fencing for all deer farms taking immediate action to prevent the spread of CWD.

The emergency rule will give deer farmers options for implementation; a second eight-foot-high fence, an electric fence, or an impermeable physical barrier to meet the rule’s requirements. Current farms need only a single eight-foot fence.

This rule will apply to all 376 registered deer farms/hunting preserves in Wisconsin. 

This new directive comes in response to appeals by Deer Advisory Councils, the Conservation Congress, and other stakeholders emphasizing the importance of and need for additional concrete steps to protect the herd. 

Step 2: Live Deer Movement Restrictions

The Governor directed the Secretary of DATCP to create an emergency and permanent rule banning the movement of deer from deer farms in CWD-affected counties. 

Currently, only deer farms enrolled in DATCP’s herd management program can move deer to farms or game preserves elsewhere in the state, even if the sending deer farm is in a CWD-affected county.

The movement of live deer between farms in different counties has been a source of significant concern for the spread of CWD (see, e.g., “CWD-positive Kewaskum deer farm linked to Bayfield County concerns,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 17, 2018). The new rule aims to limit exposure and contain the spread of the disease. 

Step 3: Deer Carcass Movement Restrictions

The Governor is directing the Secretary of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create emergency and permanent rules banning the movement of deer carcasses from CWD-affected regions.

Under the rule, a hunter who harvests a deer in a CWD-affected county may only move the carcass within the county of harvest or to a directly adjacent CWD-affected county unless the carcass is delivered to a licensed taxidermist or meat processor.

Hunters can still debone the deer at the harvest location and then take the remainder of the carcass outside the CWD-affected regions. Deboning ensures the parts of the deer’s body most likely to host the infection remain in the CWD-affected region.

When hunters harvest an infected deer from a CWD-affected county but then take it to their home or camp in a clean county, their disposal of the infected deer carcass in the clean county can spread the disease.

To prevent this, hunters must take the entire carcass to a licensed taxidermist or meat processor in any county, since those facilities are equipped to handle carcasses in a way that minimizes the spread of CWD.

For more information, contact the DATCP or the DNR.