Chronic Wasting Disease is an always fatal, infectious disease that affects deer, elk, moose, and reindeer. Hunters (and non-hunters, alike!) play an important role in helping us monitor the disease across the state. And in 2020, we've made it easier than ever before to help us do exactly that.
On this episode of Wild Wisconsin, we sit down with DNR wildlife conservation specialist, Amanda Kamps, to learn more about how hunters can participate by getting their deer sampled for CWD, the improvements that have been made to the process and some changes you should be aware of for the 2020 deer season. She also discusses some important ways non-hunters can help along the way.
Learn more about CWD in Wisconsin at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/cwd.html
Find a CWD sampling location near you at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/registersample.html
Listen to Episode 33 to learn more about important CWD research happening here in Wisconsin: https://share.transistor.fm/s/7e55a356
Listen to Episode 29 to learn more about the basics of CWD: https://share.transistor.fm/s/5b651fb8
[00:00:00] Welcome to Wisconsin DNR's Wild Wisconsin "Off the Record" podcast. Information straight from the source.
KATIE: [00:00:13] Welcome back to another episode of Wild Wisconsin Off the Record. I'm your host, DNR's acting Communications Director, Katie Grant. More and more hunters in Wisconsin are looking for ways to get involved with Wisconsin's management of Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD is an always fatal infectious nervous system disease that affects deer, moose, elk, and reindeer.
As the name suggests this disease slowly deteriorates the brain and nervous systems of the host animal, causing it to lose excessive weight and behave abnormally before ultimately dying. CWD was first discovered in Wisconsin in 2002. Since then, Wisconsin hunters have played an important role in helping us learn more about the disease and its impacts on Wisconsin's deer herd.
This year, we are looking to expand that sampling, to continue to better understand where the disease is throughout the state. Whether you're a hunter or simply a Wisconsinite who's concerned about protecting our animal populations, there are ways that you can help. In this episode, we speak with DNR Wildlife Conservation Specialist, Amanda Kamps on how hunters can report cases of CWD to assist the DNRs efforts.
She also goes into details about the various tools and resources hunters can use and updates us on new developments as far as CWD monitoring goes and so much more. So sit back and listen in.
AMANDA: [00:01:48] All right, well, I am Amanda Kamps. I am the Wildlife Health Conservation Specialist for Wisconsin DNR. And part of my main responsibilities are to work with Chronic Wasting Disease and our monitoring and management of the disease and work with our staff statewide in a whole variety of different aspects from sampling efforts to public outreach and education. I'm aware of research that we have going on. So, involved in quite a variety of different things when it comes to CWD.
KATIE: [00:02:22] Yeah. So just to get us started, what is Chronic Wasting Disease? Or as, as we often refer to it CWD.
AMANDA: [00:02:31] Of course. So CWD is a fatal infectious nervous system disease, belonging to a family that's known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathys or prion diseases.
So prion diseases is probably a much easier name to say, uh, when we're talking about CWD. And this is a disease that's found in cervid species. So we're talking deer, moose, elk, and reindeer or caribou. It has been found in the state in Wisconsin here. Our first positives were detected back in 2002 from a few deer that were harvested during the 2001 deer hunting season. But in general, uh, in Wisconsin, we had actually started monitoring for CWD in 1999.
KATIE: [00:03:25] So what does it do to the deer?
AMANDA: [00:03:27] So CWD is kind of like the name implies, so it's a chronic disease. Um, it's wasting, so it's a disease that takes some time to show some outward effects. So by chronic, it means that it takes that time in order for that to be visible, at least for, for us to see in deer.
And with the wasting disease part of it is that when, uh, a deer had the disease for quite some time and now we're starting to see those outward symptoms of the disease. It's starting to get skinnier. It's starting to act a little bit more abnormal. And so it's, it's more or less really looking like the animal is wasting away.
KATIE: [00:04:09] So I am I correct in remembering that when, when you and I have talked about this before, it's not exactly eating away at the brain, but it kind of in a way is, am I remembering that correctly?
AMANDA: [00:04:20] Well, it's causing a change in the brain. The disease can be detected throughout the nervous system. So in the brain and the spinal cord, um, in the lymph nodes throughout the body. And what happens is when, uh, if a deer is infected with it, those prions, which are abnormal shaped proteins, once those start to accumulate enough in the body, they start creating a change in things like the lymph tissue, like the brain. Then it starts creating this change in those tissues, which then create then that outward appearance or the clinical signs that we see.
KATIE: [00:05:00] Perfect. So it's been around here in Wisconsin for a while. Why do we care about it here? What potential bad could it bring to Wisconsin?
AMANDA: [00:05:09] Yeah, that's a great question. And, you know, we were monitoring or sampling for it for, you know, since 1999. And certainly we don't know when exactly it came into the state, but at least in that 2002, when we got those test results back. Uh, that's when we had at least first detected it here. And so by having the disease here, you know, looking at research and seeing what we know about the disease already is that our research is suggesting if it's left unmanaged, that CWD can eventually spread throughout our entire state here. And that other modeling research suggests an increase of CWD prevalence in a deer herd will cause a moderate to substantial long-term reduction in the harvestable surplus. And there's other researchers in other states like out in Wyoming and they're seeing indications that CWD may be reducing both the age structure and overall populations in some of the highest, uh, CWD prevalence areas out there. So if these indications are correct, ultimately, uh, this could lead to declines in Wisconsin. Which then could have a significant impact on deer hunting here in the state.
KATIE: [00:06:32] I think it's, you know, important to note here that it isn't just Wisconsin that's dealing with this, right? It is, you know, a lot of states throughout the country. There are some, some other countries looking at this, correct?
AMANDA: [00:06:45] Yeah, that's correct.
KATIE: [00:06:46] Right, right. So you mentioned that we have been sampling and testing for it here in Wisconsin for quite some time at this point. What does the DNR have planned for CWD testing around the state this year in 2020?
AMANDA: [00:07:02] Yeah. This year is, um, well, every year for that matter is a little bit unique in the, uh, areas of the state where we are doing more sampling efforts, um, than we may have previously. So every year we do put together a, what we call our surveillance plan. And that plan um, looks at our information that we know about CWD in the state already.
Where has it been detected? Uh, have we done sampling in certain areas recently? Or has it been some time where we may want to increase sampling efforts to get a little bit more of a current or up to date picture and see what's going on, as far as sampling deer, um, in certain areas across the state. So for this year with our surveillance plan, we have, uh, this is the third year actually, of what we're calling, uh, like a statewide sweep. So this year, our enhanced efforts are really focusing in the northeast. So this is the first year where, uh, we have many more sampling locations available to hunters. So we are looking to collect quite a few more samples from deer that are harvested in our northeast part of the state.
Last year, we had this increased effort in the northern part of our state. So there's a handful of counties in the north where we are continuing to provide additional sampling locations because we are looking to collect a few more samples from those counties. And the purpose of this district's sweep is, is really just to collect more samples from areas of the state where we haven't collected this many samples from in a few years.
So this is just giving us that more up to date picture about our deer herd in the state, the health of the deer herd. And if there are additional positives detected, we'll know where they are. And we can focus other surveillance and monitoring efforts in those areas. And if we don't detect the disease, that's great information to know as well.
KATIE: [00:09:19] Right. So really, you know, we're, we're looking to get more data because if we don't have the data, we don't have a full picture of what's going on. Right?
AMANDA: [00:09:28] Right. Exactly. So we need the data, we need the samples and the test results and both of the, uh, test results for positive deer and also the deer that are not detected. Those are equally important to know.
KATIE: [00:09:43] So, how can hunters find where they can take their deer to get sampled?
AMANDA: [00:09:48] Yeah, of course. So we have a number of sampling locations across the state. So the best place to go for hunters to find out where the locations are, is to go on our DNR website and type in or search for CWD sampling.
And we have a whole page that is that, that has this map on this page that lists not only the CWD sampling locations. But also carcass disposal locations. So you can zoom in, you can find your county where you'll be harvesting. You can zoom in and click on icons on the map. That'll show you where the locations are, what type of location it is.
If it's a self service kiosk, or if it's a cooperator or another location that will provide assistance with CWD sampling. So really the best thing to do is just to keep checking this map regularly throughout the season. We might have some things change. Some details about a location might change or some new additions might be added.
So just important that as hunters are getting closer to their time out in the field. That they check the map regularly. So they know where, where the closest location is to them and that'll work out best for them.
KATIE: [00:11:07] Right. Yeah. That's a question we get a lot on social media, you know... "Hey, it's the beginning of October, I'm looking at this map. There aren't any locations showing up in my area right now. How am I supposed to get my deer tested?" So it's, it's important to remember that that map is really reflecting what's available right now. And certainly as we get into the height of deer season, uh, those number of locations is going to increase. So there, there will be more added.
AMANDA: [00:11:32] Oh, absolutely. Yep.
KATIE: [00:11:34] Perfect. Yeah, you guys are hard at work. Keeping that up to date and, and looking for more ways that we can make this easier for hunters. So.
AMANDA: [00:11:42] Yep, absolutely.
KATIE: [00:11:43] So other than us focusing a good number of those efforts in those northern regions, what else is new this year in terms of the ways that the DNR is looking to fight CWD across the state?
AMANDA: [00:11:57] Yeah, that's a great question. So we do have a new option available for hunters to enter or submit all of the other information that goes along with the actual tissue sample that's needed for CWD testing. So any hunters out there, if they've sent, if they've had their deer tested before they might be familiar with this datasheet that goes along with every sample.
So the data sheet previously has just been available in a paper form. So after a hunter registers their deer, you get a confirmation email just to say your deer was registered. And in that email, there is a link and a message to say, if you're interested in getting your deer tested for CWD, you can click on the link in that email, and it'll bring you to an option where you can enter information about yourself. Uh, the location of harvest and then some other details about your deer and you can take care of all of that electronically this year.
KATIE: [00:13:01] I think that's a really cool thing because you know, obviously everyone's penmanship is a little bit different or, you know, you may miss a thing on the paper form, and then you get a phone call from the DNR or one of our volunteers trying to help figure that out and interpret what it is that you wrote down. I think it just makes it a bit more straightforward and easier all around.
AMANDA: [00:13:23] Oh, definitely. And I know one of the pieces of information that can be challenging, uh, on the data sheet is the location of harvest. So on the paper form, we asked for very, you know, specific location information that not everybody knows, um, off the top of their head.
But if you enter this information online, you can see a map and you can zoom in on a map and just place a pin on your location of harvest. And it'll collect all of that other information automatically for you. A couple of other notes to say about that process too, is that. You can access the online form to submit that data through that confirmation email, like I said. You can log into your Go Wild account and you can access it that way.
Uh, but one, a couple of things that are important to know in order to do that is you do have to know the station ID number for what station you'll be going to, to actually drop off the deer head for sampling. So every station has an assigned number. You'll need to know that number, which you can get, uh, at the station itself.
Or you can get that number on that map that we just talked about that shows all the sampling and disposal locations, those numbers are in that map. But you do still need to go to a sampling location because the other number you'll need is a CWD bar code number. So that six digit number, and you need to enter that online.
So important note, takeaway note right now is that... visit a sampling location and then start entering your data through that online process to finish it completely in one step. And then just another safety measure this year, since this is the first year with that online option, is that when you pick up your data sheet, just write your name and phone number on that.
And then, um, keep that in the, the black plastic bags that you're using for, um, submitting your, your deer head at that sampling location. Just in case we need to contact you for something. It's nice to have your name and number right there. Since all of your other information was submitted online.
KATIE: [00:15:44] Perfect. Perfect. Is there anything else new this year in terms of things that we're doing to help hunters fight CWD?
AMANDA: [00:15:52] Um, yeah, so we are expanding our Adopt a Dumpster programs this year and also Adopt a Kiosk. Those two programs have been available for the past couple of years. And participation has been great.
It's been increasing every year. And one of the new things with the Adopt a Dumpster program this year is our cost share option. So last year we, uh, the DNR was able to provide a cost share option for certain counties and up to two dumpsters in those counties and reimbursing a certain amount for those couple of dumpster locations.
Well, this year what's new is that we have the cost share option available to every county. All 72 counties statewide. So if you, or an organization that you're affiliated with, if you're interested in looking into having a carcass disposal option available to hunters in your community, then check out this program and see if you can still sign up and even participate in that cost share option.
KATIE: [00:17:04] Awesome. What can hunters keep in mind to help in the fight to slow the spread of CWD?
AMANDA: [00:17:11] There's quite a few things that hunters can, uh, keep in mind here. So, you know, certainly we've been talking a lot about getting their deer tested and having those carcass disposal options available. And aside from those two things, there's... hunters should be aware and follow the carcass transport regulations that we have, uh, both for deer that were harvested here in the state.
But also if any hunters go to a different state and want to hunt there and are successful and they bring back um, some meat or bring back something here to their home, is just knowing what those carcass transport regulations are. Both for in-state and, and for out of state. Um, another bit of information hunters should know about is baiting and feeding.
So there are, um, right now currently 52 counties in the state have a baiting and feeding ban. And it's just knowing if your county is one of those or whether it's not. And then knowing what the regulations are when it comes to baiting and feeding. Ultimately, it's just making sure as a hunter for where you will be hunting, know if you have a baiting and feeding ban. And just, if you have questions on it, you can check our website to stay current, to know a little bit about that in your area or certainly reach out to us with any other questions.
KATIE: [00:18:40] Yeah, absolutely. Are there other ways for hunters to help out in their communities?
AMANDA: [00:18:48] Oh. Absolutely. So, uh, hunters can, um, you know, if they're interested, they can, uh, harvest additional deer and even possibly donate those to our, uh... through the deer donation program. So, um, we have this program that's available in the states where, you know, if hunters are out there, they enjoy getting outside. Um, they enjoy contributing to the need, the needs of their communities, where, um, those who may visit the pantries could then have a great option for some venison.
KATIE: [00:19:25] 2020 obviously has thrown us a lot of curve balls. Um, everyone has had to make some changes. The DNR included. Is there anything different about CWD testing this year that hunters should be aware of?
AMANDA: [00:19:38] Be mindful that the time that it would take that you might be... hunters might be used to, in the past for the time for when they submit their deer for testing to when they get those test results back might be a little bit longer this year. You know, we do have some adjustments that we're making, uh, with our staff and our sampling locations that we have available to hunters.
And we're really still trying to do the best we can to have a lot of options out there. And we're checking them frequently. We're getting samples sent in for testing very regularly, but, but just because um, you know, everything that we're still going through here in this state, just give a little bit of extra time or a little bit more patience.
It may be a little bit longer for those tests results to come back. And even the lab that does the testing might have some limitations there too. So, really the best advice is to, if you harvest a deer, just try and get it submitted for testing as soon as possible.
KATIE: [00:20:41] Right. Yeah. Keep yourself and, and other hunters safe and healthy while, while you're at those stations. And we're, we're going to work our hardest to, to not have there be delays, but just kind of given the way things are there. There probably will be a longer time than you're used to. So great advice there. What's the most important thing for hunters to know going into this season, uh, with regard to CWD specifically?
AMANDA: [00:21:07] I guess, overall, and this might be more of an encompassing, you know, um, big takeaway message right now is just really, um, their participation in one way or another in CWD sampling or monitoring surveillance. There's a lot of different ways that hunters can be involved and really we're all in this together to keep monitoring the health of the deer herd in the state. So if hunters can participate in any way that they can, that's really the best thing that they can do.
You know, another way that hunters and even non-hunters can help with CWD monitoring is reporting sick deer. Or anything that's kind of abnormal. Making those reports to your local DNR wildlife staff. Um, and one last thing, of course I always recommend, is just for everybody to stay informed and up to date on CWD. There's a lot that we know already, but there's still a lot that we're still learning and that we don't know yet. And so it's really just doing what we can. Stay informed about it. And everybody definitely has a part in helping to protect our, the health of our deer herd in the state.
KATIE: [00:22:25] You've been listening to Wild Wisconsin. A podcast brought to you by the Wisconsin DNR. Interested in learning more about CWD and how you can do your part to help? Send those questions to email@example.com and we'll work with Amanda and the rest of our wildlife management team here at the DNR to get you answers. For more great content be sure to subscribe to Wild Wisconsin wherever you get your podcasts.
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