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CWD processing center busy as gun deer season ends

BLACK EARTH (WKOW) — Now that the gun deer hunting season is over, deer samples are being sent to the Wisconsin Department of Nature Resources (DNR) so it can test for Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD.

The DNR says they’ve seen an increase since the end of the 2017 season.

Deer hunting in Wisconsin is an important part of many family traditions. So it’s important to know the health of any deer harvested during the 9-day gun deer season.

“The CDC, World Health Organization, our Department of Health in Wisconsin basically advise that hunters do not consume the meat from a CWD positive animal,” said Tami Ryan, chief of the Wildlife Health Program for the DNR.

With the number of CWD cases on the rise, workers and volunteers at the state’s only processing station in Black Earth have been busy.

“All the deer heads or samples that are collected from deer heads out in the field, across the state, all make their way down here to be processed,” Ryan said.

Ryan started testing for the disease since it was first discovered in Wisconsin in 2002.

“We get results back all the time, daily. So we’ve been sampling since the beginning of the deer season.”

As part of the testing process, tissues are extracted from the deer’s head.

“So there’s basically two lymph nodes near the base of the skull and in the neck of the animal that we have to extract,” Ryan said.

Dan Barr is the Pathology Sciences Supervisor at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory where the extractions are delivered. He said they use a rapid test called an ELISA.

“Essentially, we can test 90 samples in about four hours,” Barr said.

“This is where we stage all of the frozen lymph nodes from the different submitters,” he said, as he gave a tour of the lab. “Basically each one of these cartons holds 90 samples.”

Barr says testing gives wildlife biologists valuable information to understand the prevalence of the disease.

“Put that into different models and try and understand how it’s spread, how frequently it’s spread and the overall distribution of the disease.”

While there’s no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans from eating venison, Ryan says the risk isn’t zero.

Ryan says the DNR will continue sampling for Chronic Wasting Disease through the remainder of the deer season. She thinks they should have no problem reaching the goal of 15,000 statewide samples.

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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