This hunting season, hunters across the Northwoods are being asked to submit samples of their deer to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease.
As the invariably fatal disease continues to spread across the state, with new CWD-positive deer being found in areas that formerly only had a single positive, there has been a renewed push for testing — which is offered by the Department of Natural Resources at no cost to hunters. This is the first time in nearly a decade that there has been a concerted effort to look for the disease in the northern region of the state.
In order to get enough samples to achieve relative assurance that the disease does not exist in northern counties that are not already CWD-positive, the DNR has to depend on hunters to submit samples of their deer for testing.
CWD has been found in 56 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, according to the DNR, including Vilas, Oneida, and Lincoln, which border Price County to the east.
While the disease has not been found in Price County, there have been a very small number of samples sent in for testing over the past several years. In the 2018 sample year (which runs from April 1, 2018-March 31, 2019), a total of 52 Price County deer were tested for CWD. In 2017, 23 deer were tested, three in 2016, three in 2015, and zero in 2014. The highest number of deer sampled for CWD in Price County was 483 in 2002, followed by 441 in 2008. Apart from those two years, there haven't been more than 100 samples taken in a single year.
A minimum of 369 samples would need to be received for Price County in order to achieve a 95% confidence level that the disease does not exist in the county, according to local DNR wildlife biologist Derek Johnson.
“We can never be 100% sure, but by sampling 300 deer in the county, there's a high likelihood that we would have found it,” said Johnson.
So far this sampling year, there have been 59 samples sent for testing in — the majority of which have been collected from deer harvested on agricultural permits.
“As far as hunter-harvested samples, we've been pretty few and far between,” said Johnson.
Due to the new online registration process, Johnson explained that the DNR has to rely on hunters to voluntarily supply samples for testing.
CWD testing is completed at no cost to hunters, and there are numerous sites throughout Price County where hunters can drop off samples of their deer for testing. These include Wildwood Taxidermy in Fifield, Roscoe’s Country Sausage outside Phillips, Ball Petroleum in Phillips, Raab’s Extra Innings in Ogema, Still Life Taxidermy in Park Falls, Laurie’s Coach Bar and Grill in Ogema, and the Northwoods Convenience Station in Hawkins.
There are also 24/7 self-service kiosks at the DNR locations in Park Falls and Prentice.
In order to submit a sample, hunters must deposit the deer head with three to five inches of neck attached, as the lymph nodes located in the neck are what is tested for the disease. The harvest authorization number, harvest location, and contact information is also needed.
If the sample is dropped off one to three days after harvest, it can be kept at temperatures 40-degrees or cooler. Any longer than that, the head should be frozen.
In order to make special arrangements for dropping off a sample in Price County, hunters can call Johnson at 715-762-1340 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lymph node samples collected in Price County are sent to the DNR's CWD processing center in Black Earth. Each sample is cataloged and the samples then send on to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at UW-Madison for testing. Results will be provided to the hunter and the DNR within two to three weeks.