This CWD map is a scary reality check.
When most people think about hunting their dream buck anywhere in North America, whitetail destination states like Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin are right at the top of the list.
If you find yourself considering these areas a haven for deer hunting, it's time to pay attention. The latest CWD map from the folks over at QDMA is a wake up call that should cause all deer hunters to pay attention.
The map shows the home zip codes of individuals who harvest a deer from a four county area in Wisconsin last year. Nearly every state in the lower 48 is represented. That's not the scary part. Where things get interesting is when we learned that nearly half of those deer were likely carriers of the deadly disease CWD.
CWD, or Chronic Wasting Disease, has gained much attention lately as biologists, hunters, and conservation groups have learned more about it's impact. The disease attacks the nervous system of deer and is ultimately fatal. However, an animal carrying the disease may very well not become critically ill for as long as 18 months.
That means deer with a CWD infection may not show signs or symptoms through two entire hunting seasons. During that time, deer may show little to no physical signs of infestation.
Though no known transfer from deer to humans has been documented, officials are highly encouraging hunters to have their harvest checked and test results scrutinized. Some states are taking dramatic steps to prevent or slow the spread of the disease in wild deer herds.
Wisconsin, and Everywhere Else
The four county area shown in the map includes Dane, Iowa, Richland, and Sauk counties in Wisconsin. Local deer hunter and passionate conservationist, Doug Duren, has been working to combat the disease for years.
"We've been working with local and national groups to help slow and prevent the spread of the disease. Simple things can be done, like properly disposing of carcasses and having animals tested. We need to make it easy and convenient for hunters to do both of those things."
Most states, even those surrounding the area covered in this map, have strict regulations against transporting infected deer or carcass parts across state lines. "In this area, it's a coin flip whether or not a mature buck is infected. At this point, it's willful ignorance if hunters aren't taking the risks of CWD seriously," Duren said.
Basic hygiene and safe handling practices can be found on Wisconsin Game and Fish website. Many other states also publish safe handling guidelines and regulations. CWD testing is voluntary in some states, but not that difficult to contribute to. It's clear that deer management is going to be affected by this disease, and if we care about wildlife health, we should take these simple steps.
There aren't many of us who can afford to ignore CWD. Michigan, Colorado, Texas, and even some Canadian provinces have seen cases, though not all of them have involved free-ranging deer.
As hunters, it's time to do our part to prevent the downstream impact of CWD. Without taking heed, the population impacts 3-5 years down the road may be catastrophic for many areas.
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