CWD, now confirmed in 25 states and two provinces, is always deadly to cervids – whitetail and mule deer, moose and moose. Studies show that once more than a third of the population is infected, entire herds can be decimated.
In parts of southern Wisconsin, more than 50 percent of wild game is now infected with CWD. So far there is no antidote, no vaccine for deer, no way to get rid of them.
But it's not just deer populations – it could be the future of stag hunting. Even if wild game somehow persists in the landscape, it is unclear how many hunters they still want to hunt if CWD poses a potential threat to humans.
The disease has never been confirmed in humans but is very similar to mad cow disease, which thwarted species and killed humans.
CWD, caused by mutated proteins called prions, has already crossed species with macaques that have been fed on infected meat in laboratory tests. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infection Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an expert in infectious diseases, sums up human danger.
"I do not think it's a question of If, but when CWD changes to humans," Osterholm told the News Tribune.
"This is the biggest fear of this disease ̵
CWD can be spread not only from infected live deer, but also from contaminated fecal matter, saliva, and other body fluids and body parts Predators that eat infected meat can move the mutated proteins for miles, and it can remain in the soil for years, possibly indefinitely, and can even be ingested by plants that could eat a healthy roe. 19659003] "It's a kind of radioactivity – once you get that stuff, it never really goes away," p acted Lindsay Thomas of the Quality Deer Management Association, a national deer hunt group based in Georgia. "So the goal is to keep it out for as long as possible. If you do not have it, you do not want it. Think of it as a front in a war where you do everything possible to keep it out. Stag hunters must be at war with this disease. "In Wisconsin, wildlife officials have essentially given up trying to stem the disease through active management, such as the wheezing of infected deer. While the state is still testing some of the deer shot annually for CWD, efforts by the public and political pressure to reduce the disease by culling infected herds are coming to an end.
But in Minnesota, wildlife officials are aggressively fighting the disease this winter and are trying to keep CWD on a few captive deer farms and small wildlife areas. So far, only 32 wild deer have been confirmed with CWD in Minnesota, all in southeastern counties, compared to thousands in Wisconsin.
"When Wisconsin discovered that they had CWD, it was probably as much as a decade in the landscape in 2002. They already had a prevalence of over 5 percent (of CWD among wild deer in infected areas). The horse was already out of the barn. "Said Carstensen. "But we only have one or two percent, even in our core area (CWD-infected region). Is it realistic to say that we can eliminate CWD in Minnesota? No, it is not possible. However, we believe that we still have a chance to keep the situation under control.
Winter Hunting and Snipers
This winter in and around Fillmore County in southern Minnesota, efforts are being made to kill as many deer at the core of the CWD-infected area as possible in order to reduce populations and thus the likelihood of dispersal to reduce. Special public and large landowner hunts took place in December and early January. Snipers of the US Department of Agriculture will be called later this month to kill more deer. Each deer is tested for CWD.
Immediately east of the primary CWD zone in the Houston district of the southeast of the state, public special hunts will be held in the coming weeks to kill more deer and test where a single is mature. Buckshot in November was positive for CWD.
"We really want to know if this buck was an outlier, if he came from somewhere or if we have CWD in this area," Carstensen said. The buck was 8 miles from a CWD-infected stag farm in Winona County, about 15 miles from the nearest CWD-infected deer in Minnesota and about 20 miles from CWD-infected areas in Iowa and Wisconsin.
No idea where the buck got infected, "said Carstensen 19659003] Landowners, hunters and the Minnesota legislators have worked with the DNR's aggressive culling strategy and agreed to see fewer deer in their favorite area – at least for one or more two years until the population recovers – in return for a chance to prevent the spread of CWD.
"We have some people who can not see after the next hunting season and the big buck they want to shoot "And we do not want us to take more deer with us," Carstensen said. "But for the most part, we have people who are thinking about the future, whether their grandchildren will have stag hunting."
Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association , said his group continues to support DNR's aggressive efforts and said the approach is similar to the fight against invasive species Not to stop him from penetrating like zebra mussels, he noted, but you can slow them down and keep them away for as long as possible – until maybe scientists come up with a defense.
"We want Minnesota to adopt the aggressive approach so we do not end up like Wisconsin," Engwall said. "I think there is a pretty good public support to go after (CWD) while we still can."
Thomas said that every state deals with CWD in a different way. But in New York, where some CWD-positive deer have been eliminated and the disease has not yet returned, and in Illinois, which has aggressively hunted and kept deer in CWD areas, efforts have been made to recruit a large number of deer in infected areas kill, well infection rates to 2 percent or less.
"If Minnesota can stay that way, it seems to work. It is a long, constant and expensive fight. But it's better than having the alternative of having CWD everywhere, "he said.
During the final hunting season of 2018, the Wisconsin DNR tested 16,337 deer for CWD, a fraction of more than 250,000 harvested nationwide in the bow About 975 were positive for CWD, about 6 percent, but in some areas, such as Iowa County in the southwest of the state, more than half of all deer carry CWD, said Tami Ryan, head of the Wildlife Health program Wisconsin DNR.
Ryan said the researchers are in the third year of a four-year study to see if CWD is already affecting deer in high-prevalence areas, as is the case in both Wyoming and White-tailed deer there are no results.
Ryan said the state has no data on whether CWD affects license sales, whether fewer people buy stag hunting licenses or eat venison, because CWD.  She said it was the first time In Wisconsin, it was confirmed in 2002 that license sales were down about 10 percent.
"But after that, the numbers went back," Ryan said. "We really do not know if this affects the decline that we are experiencing lately. We have no such recent behavioral data.
CWD spreads game from deer to stag, as the animals move naturally in the wild. Mature bucks can cover many kilometers during mating season in the fall, rutting, and CWD from one district to another, even one state into another, often along habitat corridors such as rivers.
But much of the spread of CWD has been blamed on deer and moose farms where chicken dogs are bred, traded to find food, or to hunt for trophies that are hunted in so-called "can hunts" in fenced nature reserves. Outbreak cards for wild CWD cases often seem to accumulate around contaminated farms, and in such farms additional controls, if not prohibitions, have been demanded.
In Minnesota, Crow Wing County, near Brainerd, a wild boar CWD positive was confirmed for 2017. (The only reliable test for CWD is death.)
The DNR introduced compulsory wild game testing in the area. So far, no wild deer has tested positive. However, last year the entire herd on the deer farm died at CWD. Now the DNR wants to continue testing in the area.
The farm had only a single fence and farmers still do not have to depopulate captive animals, even if tested positive for CWD.
"We will really be watching the area around the farm in the future," Carstensen said.
Engwall said his group would continue to abide by the highway banning rules and the transport of captive deer and the double fence around deer and moose farms to keep out wild deer from potentially CWD-infected stag farms. The group opposes the can-hunt.
Minnesota has 398 licensed deer and elk farms, Wisconsin over 380. They are regulated in the state agricultural departments and outside the jurisdiction of state resource agencies.
Maps where there were CWD farms and where it appears in the wild is pretty clear what the problem is, "Engwall said.
But hunters could also be guilty of unknowingly killing an infected animal and then bringing it home, where parts of the animal are disposed of incorrectly, such as throwing cadavers or deer into the forest.
Since most infected animals look healthy (only at the end of their lives do infected deer begin to look like zombies, and most hunters would not harvest such a sick looking animal.) Most hunters have no idea that the animal is infected most deer are never tested.
Last year, Thomas was used by the Quality Deer Management Association publisher The license data shows that hunters from 49 different states – every state except Delaware – are in only four Wisconsin counties with the highest incidence of CWD in killed more than 32,000 whitetails in the states of Dane, Iowa, Richland, and Sauk (dozens of these hunters came from Minnesota, including several from the Duluth area.) Thomas says this is highly likely given the high rate of infection in these countries, as some or even many of the non-resident hunters shot and then moved, CWD-contaminated deer.  In many states, including Minnesota, there are provisions concerning the import or removal of deer carcasses. The enforcement is unclear, however, and it is unclear how many hunters stick to it.
"Even if you do not have a CWD in your area, you can not think of that as a far-flung problem, because then it will show up in your own garden," said Thomas. "If you hunt deer in other states, near CWD areas, if you do not make any arrangements and follow the rules, it's just as likely that you take the animals home in a deer carcass like a deer, who transports a living deer over the state lines. "