MADISON — Chronic wasting disease has leapt into far northwestern Wisconsin despite a decadelong battle to keep the deadly deer ailment contained in the southwestern corner of the state, wildlife officials said Monday.
Department of Natural Resources Lands Division Administrator Kurt Thiede said test results have confirmed a doe found in the wild just outside Shell Lake last fall was infected.
The discovery threatens to send a new round of shockwaves through Wisconsin’s $1 billion hunting industry and further strain the Department of Natural Resources’ relationship with hunters and landowners who never bought into the agency’s strategies to contain the disease when it first turned up in southern Wisconsin in 2002.
“This is the DNR and the sportsmen’s worst nightmare,” said Larry Bonde, vice chairman of the Conservation Congress, a group of influential sportsmen who advise the DNR on policy.
“CWD has caused such a stir in the hunting community. The relationship between the DNR and landowners got so damaged. Now moving to a whole new part of the state, it could re-spark some of that discontent.”
Chronic wasting disease produces microscopic holes in animals’ brain tissue, causing weight loss, tremors, strange behavior and, eventually, death. It was discovered in Wisconsin near Mount Horeb in 2002, marking the first time it had been found east of the Mississippi River. Fear of the disease dampened hunting efforts dramatically that year, as 70,000 fewer people purchased hunting licenses than in 2001…
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