Chronic Wasting Disease Ravaging Wisconsin Deer

Prion Disease Threatens Wisconsin Livestock

Editors Note: A deadly prion is a deadly prion. Hiding behind ignorance and special interests is doing no one any good. Prion disease is always fatal. There is not a cure. Prions migrate, mutate and multiply. Sick animals (including livestock and people) that have prion disease contaminate their environment with prions that are discharged via blood, urine, feces, saliva, and milk. These prions enter the soil and are carried into groundwater, surface water, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. 

When people have prion disease, their bodily discharges contaminate entire sewer systems–forever. When biosolids and reclaimed sewage water are discharged from the sewage plant, that sludge is then applied to cropland across Wisconsin and the nation. In fact, few counties in Wisconsin have not been subjected to sewage disposal on cropland. Are prions in sewage sludge infecting the deer? If so, what’s to keep the prions from migrating and infecting Wisconsin’s multi-billion dollar dairy herd? The species barrier is a myth. Prion disease is prion disease and a deadly prion is a deadly prion. Don’t buy the spin about “no evidence of” or “species barrier will protect you.” That is pure BS to sell you a bill of goods that covers a lot of asses. 

land application sewage sludge

Further more, asking hunters to kill sick deer, dress it and process it without fear is reckless. As the following article illustrates, hunters are dressing and processing thousands of carcasses riddled with prions every year. In those cases, infected blood and tissue will permanently contaminate the hunter’s knives and saws and clothes and processing plants and beyond. If I dare cut through the spinal chord to remove the head for testing, my chances of prion exposure escalate. If the test comes back positive, I will throw out the remaining packs of deer burger. I should throw out my knife and burn my clothes. Unfortunately, those items have already been in my home and garage. Why isn’t the Fish & Game and Divisions of Wildlife giving hunters better safeguards? With mismanagement like this, eradicating deadly prion disease from deer herds and entire ecosystems is a pipe dream–or make that a nightmare. If you live in Wisconsin or any state impacted by chronic wasting disease, challenge them to hire me as a consultant on this life-and-death issue.

CWD A Lost Battle

The rate of chronic wasting disease (CWD) is on the rise among deer in Iowa County, Wisconsin and elsewhere across the state. CWD is a fatal, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) similar to what is commonly known as mad cow disease that is caused by twisted proteins, or prions. For hunters, writes outdoors reporter Patrick Durkin, this means the disease might be affecting the herd now. For anyone who eats venison, this means greater chances that the disease could conceivably make the species jump and infect humans, according to Dave Clausen, a veterinarian whose term on Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board expired in May.

chronic wasting disease caused by prions

About one out of every three male deer aged 2.5 years and older carries CWD in north-central Iowa County, as does one out of every six yearling male deer (1.5 years old), according to the Wisconsin State Journal, and the rates are climbing at about ten percent a year. As several experts told Durkin, the increasing rates are “unprecedented,” “frightening,” and “disturbing.”

Over 633,000 hunters purchased licenses to hunt white-tailed deer in Wisconsin in 2012, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The primary deer hunting season (for guns) runs for nine days in late November. An exact number of Wisconsinites who eat hunted venison is not known, although media reports indicate it is large. But testing of these deer for CWD is on the decline, even as infection rates rise. In 2002, over 40,000 deer were tested in Wisconsin, and .51 percent tested positive. In 2012, 6,611 deer were tested, and 5.13 percent tested positive.

As then-Natural Resources Board member Clausen wrote in a white paper on CWD and human health in 2012, the “ever-increasing number of CWD infected deer on the landscape . . . and the accompanying exponential increase of environmental contamination with CWD prion will result in increased inter-species, including human, exposure to the CWD prion. Under our current management strategy, human exposure will increase.”

prion disease epidemic

Less Testing, More People Eating Infected Venison In Wisconsin

One of the reasons why it is possible for CWD to make the species jump to humans is because of insufficient warnings to hunters by the DNR, Clausen says. The DNR website says there is “no strong evidence” that CWD can be passed to humans, but warns hunters to “minimize contact with the brain, spinal cord, spleen and lymph nodes” when processing deer.

But in 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) changed its definition of infective tissue to include skeletal muscles from CWD-infected deer and elk. And a 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study notes, “CWD prions are present nearly ubiquitously throughout diseased hosts, including in muscle, fat, various glands and organs, antler velvet, and peripheral and CNS [central nervous system] tissue.” It concludes that the potential for human exposure to CWD from handling or eating material from infected deer “is substantial and increases with increased disease prevalence.” Both the WHO and the CDC recommend that people avoid eating meat from CWD-infected deer or elk.

Unlike the WHO and CDC, Clausen said the Wisconsin Department of Health and Safety (DHS) will not publicly recommend against eating infected venison until there is hard evidence that someone has gotten Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD, the human TSE) from eating infected venison. But he believes that the government should be operating on the precautionary principle — that “if something is plausible, that we should be erring on the side of caution unless we have absolute hard evidence that it’s not possible.”

chronic wasting disease and moose

But, Clausen adds, the “precautionary principle is bad for business.” If people become so concerned about contracting CWD that they stop hunting, it means a potential decrease in DNR revenue; and the federal government has stopped funding CWD testing and research in the last year or two. UW-Madison Professor Michael Samuel has seen federal research funds for studying “disturbing” new trends in CWD dry up. “There’s little interest in CWD these days, Wisconsin and nationwide,” he told Durkin.

With testing on the decline, the DNR “has tracked hundreds of cases” in which people have eaten infected venison and “knows that there are many more,” according to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. As the rates of the disease rise — as the CDC notes — “the potential for human exposure to CWD by handling and consumption of infectious cervid material increases.”


public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform

Chronic Wasting Disease Fueled By Sewage Sludge

Biosolids Spreading Brain Disease

By Patrick Durkin

Those who think Wisconsin should just “learn to live” with chronic wasting disease are seeing their surrender take shape as “nature takes its course” on our deer herd.

In fact, folks near Spring Green are living the realities of such clichés. One farmer in the Wyoming valley of north-central Iowa County has shot 21 CWD-positive deer from his family’s 700 acres since 2008, with 11 falling since April 2012.

Those are just a few of the sick deer in a 144-square mile area where CWD (prion disease) is rising at “unprecedented” rates. That one-word assessment came from Bryan Richards, CWD project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, after reviewing the latest CWD reports from Robert Rolley, a Department of Natural Resources researcher in the wildlife science bureau.

chronic wasting disease caused by prions

Rolley, Richards and about 50 other citizens, biologists and agency staff were at UW-Stevens Point on April 6 to help implement 62 recommendations from the “Deer Trustee Report,” Dr. James Kroll’s guide to revamping Wisconsin deer management.

Rolley, too, used one word — “frightening” — to assess CWD’s increase in the 12- by-12-mile area around the Wyoming valley. The eastern border of this diseased block abuts CWD’s core area (northeastern Iowa and northwestern Dane counties), where the disease was first discovered 11 years ago.

What constitutes “unprecedented” and “frightening?” First, realize the infection rate in the core area is increasing about 10 percent annually. That resembles annual infection rates of mule deer in southeastern Wyoming’s Converse area, where 40 to 50 percent of the herd is infected with CWD.

prion disease epidemic

Now consider north-central Iowa County:

• CWD’s annual growth rate for all deer (both sexes combined) 2½ years and older is 27 percent.

• Annual disease rates for adult bucks (18 months and older) are doubling every two to three years.

• Roughly every third buck 2½ years and older is infected, as is one in every six yearling bucks (18 months old). Infected deer live two years or less.

• Although the number of diseased females is lower, the infection rate for does 2½ years and older is growing 38 percent annually, faster than for males.

I’m not aware of data anywhere showing wild, free-range deer with similar infection rates,” Richards said. “The only thing worse was the Stan Hall farm (Buckhorn Flats, near Almond), whose penned herd of 76 deer went from one sick deer to 60 in five years.”

That might sound like mere statistics to some, but not to Matt Limmex, 49, an Iowa County dairy farmer who has spent his life on the family’s property. Of the 11 sick deer killed on Limmex’s lands the past year, six fell during 2012 gun seasons.

land application sewage sludge

The other five? Limmex shot them at the DNR’s request after noticing the “droolers and shakers” near his farmyard. In three cases, they were so sick they couldn’t flee when Limmex approached. The DNR retrieved the carcasses for testing and disposal.

“I hate to see this,” Limmex said. “It’s disheartening. I just want to get sick deer off the landscape.”

Limmex said his family deploys about 14 hunters each year during gun season. They’ve also used agricultural shooting permits since 1991 to control the herd. Even so, this is the first time he senses deer numbers decreasing.

“It seems like the disease might be affecting the herd now,” he said.

biosolids land application and disease

So, what’s causing CWD rates in the Wyoming valley to exceed those in the original disease zone? And will it shrink local herds, as experts have long predicted? No one knows, and our state and federal governments aren’t inclined to find out.

The only current DNR-funded deer research by the University of Wisconsin is studying whether predators are affecting North Woods whitetails. Meanwhile, Professor Michael Samuel at the University of Wisconsin is using federal funds to study if deer leave CWD-causing prions in feces, breeding scrapes and mineral licks. But that’s ending soon.

“We’re puzzled by what’s going on in the Wyoming valley,” Samuel said. “It’s very disturbing, but CWD research is on the way out. We could generate hypotheses and proposals to study what’s behind the increases, but I doubt we’d get the funding. There’s little interest in CWD these days, Wisconsin and nationwide.”

Imagine that. The world’s most “disturbing,” “frightening” and “unprecedented” CWD case is growing next door to our capital and flagship university, and our government won’t crack a window to sniff it.

Meanwhile, no group or coalition of hunters, doctors, veterinarians or environmentalists is holding politicians accountable, or funding the research themselves. There’ll be no shortage of shame as this stench spreads.

CWD News Via

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform