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Chronic Wasting Disease is On the Rise in Two Wisconsin Counties

Chronic wasting disease, a fatal deer illness, continues to spread in two Wisconsin counties where the disease was discovered more than a decade ago.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Tuesday that test results from 2013 indicate 1 in 4 adult male deer in Iowa and western Dane Counties are infected with chronic wasting disease. That’s more than double the 8% to 10% infection rates found in adult male deer back in 2002 when the disease was first discovered in that area.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cautioned the public on Tuesday to not make year-by-year comparisons, because the infection rate data is not uniform between years. But they are concerned that the disease is spreading.

Since it was first discovered in Wisconsin, chronic wasting disease has been found in 18 counties. It is most concentrated in two regions: Rock and Walworth counties and the area west of Madison. Last year, the state DNR reported that 20% of the adult male deer West of Madison were infected with the disease. Northern Illinois also has pockets of infections, but the prevalence rate there is under 1%.

This map shows the concentration of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.


Chronic wasting disease is a fatal illness that affects the nervous system of deer. The disease spreads through deer to deer contact.

In recent years, the DNR has used sharpshooters to reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease, but that program was met with strong public objection and reluctance from hunters.

“Right now, while there are people concerned about the spread of CWD, there isn’t support for the action to really make a difference,” said Tamara Ryan, chief of wildlife health at the state DNR.

How do you think the Wisconsin DNR should prevent the spread of the disease? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Chronic Wasting Disease is On the Rise in Two Wisconsin Counties