RHINELANDER - Until one year ago, the Northwoods avoided the deadly deer illness called chronic wasting disease.
But a positive CWD test on a Three Lakes game farm distressed many hunters, scientists, and wildlife watchers in the area.
This fall and winter, the DNR hoped to prove no wild deer were infected with the disease. It asked hunters to submit the heads of deer shot in areas near the game farm. It then tested those heads for CWD.
"Of all of the ones that we've tested, so far we haven't had a single positive in the wild," said DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz. "Hopefully, that continues. I expect it will continue and we'll get some good news."
DNR wildlife biologists still want to sample more deer near the Three Lakes farm.
The positive test in 2015 triggered a ban on baiting and feeding deer in Oneida, Forest, and Vilas counties, which started in January 2016.
"The concept of a baiting and feeding ban in areas where CWD has been detected is to take every step to reduce the spread of the disease," Holtz said.
This month, county deer advisory committees across Wisconsin may consider expanding the ban statewide. They could also consider letting bans expire in certain areas.
Right now, a positive test sets off a ban in nearby counties under the state's seven-year-old CWD management plan.
"It's not arbitrary. It's designed from the chronic wasting disease response plan that the state has. That was written to be a living document," Holtz said.
That plan is up for review this month, with public input from county deer advisory committees.
Local meetings may consider recommending additional hunting seasons in CWD-positive areas, but those proposals may not gain much support.
"The overwhelming response--from hunters, from chambers of commerce, from snowmobile groups--is that they wanted to keep hunting seasons the way they were," Holtz said. "They liked them the way they were."
Those meetings are open to the public. You can find your county's meeting by clicking the link below.
County Deer Advisory Committee meetings