American Cervid Alliance

Wisconsin CWD Update!

December 10, 2013

A Message from the Whitetails of Wisconsin Board of Directors

Hello everyone,

The latest CWD positive in Wisconsin on one of Wilderness Whitetails’ hunting ranches has grabbed the attention of the whole cervid industry.  There are a lot of rumors out there and therefore Whitetails of Wisconsin is sending out this update to let everyone know the facts.

The buck in question was born on the Flees’ breeding farm in 2008. The deer was raised there in a bachelor pen until 2010, then released into Wilderness North hunting ranch. In 2012 the buck was seen on several trail cam pictures fighting an infection in his head. 37 months after his release in the hunting ranch,  the buck was harvested by a hunter.  The pictures show an obviously healthy, 300 pound buck with no signs of any illness.

About a month later, we are rocked as an industry to find out a farm that has been a closed herd for nearly 15 years, double-fenced, CWD tested more than 1,000 animals in their breeding herds and hunting ranches in the past 11 years, has now had a deer test positive for CWD. The buck tested positive at the University of Minnesota. The sample was then sent to Ames, Iowa for a confirmatory test which was confirmed in both the brain stem and lymph nodes.

The good news is the Wisconsin Department of Ag (DATCP) is going to allow Wilderness Whitetails to continue moving deer from their breeding herds to their hunting ranches and are allowing the hunting of these animals to continue. This is a huge step in the right direction for control of this disease rather than eradicating the exposed animals which has been the normal process in the past.  USDA is directing states to handle the disease in this manner.  Wisconsin is planning to set the stage for the rest of the country in hopes the other states will follow our lead.

Currently, Wisconsin DATCP is primarily looking at the deer that resided on the farm at the same time as the buck in the years 2008, 2009, and 2010 . They have an epidemiologist doing a complete study. This is huge for the industry. They are not just casting a 5-year quarantine net like has been done in the past. Wisconsin’s state vet, Dr. McGraw, is doing a complete investigation before coming to any conclusions about quarantines.  He also stated they may quarantine individual animals rather than whole herds. Wilderness Whitetails has tested a very large number of animals and that gives the state a very good data base to weigh out the risk. Dr. McGraw is also considering allowing DNA on the positive sample and a third test of the positive sample using the Western Blot test, which is the “gold standard” CWD test.  All of these steps are necessary to rule out any human error with the positive animal.  

We also know that the deer resided on the hunting ranch for 37 months and science tells us a deer should be clinical with CWD after 33 months (plus or minus 2 months). This tells us the deer most likely contracted the disease while at the hunting ranch and helps to lower the risk factor and limit trace outs from the breeding farm.

The cervid industry in Wisconsin has tested over 37,000 animals with a very low prevalence of positives.  We have not found a CWD positive in a farmed cervid since 2008.  This latest positive animal clearly shows we are all only one test away from finding the disease on our farms/ranches.  There is a lot of work to do in the days ahead and we all need to unite to fight this battle.  There will inevitably be quarantines from the trace outs unless the DNA or the confirmatory test proves the animal did not originate from the breeding facility.  We will continue to keep the industry informed of the progress we make in the days ahead.

Whitetails of Wisconsin Board of Directors


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