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Diseases could spoil deer season for some hunters

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deer silhouette

MADISON (WKOW) -- The crackling of leaves is an especially euphoric sound for hunters.

"People love the outdoors and we get to spend time with family and friends, but we also want to put healthy meals in the freezer," said Mark LaBarbera, an avid deer hunter and Executive Director for the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Diseases could spoil the season for some hunters. A USDA study found coronavirus antibodies in white-tail deer across several states.

"Wisconsin was not one of them," said Tami Ryan, DNR Wildlife Health Section Chief.

DNR officials said while COVID-19 has not yet been detected in deer in our state, research has led to a key finding.

"The science is showing that somehow the disease is being spread from humans to deer. The infections correlate with the prevalence of the disease in humans," said Ryan.

"The hunters that I know are not concerned about it," LaBarbera said. 

While coronavirus may not be a worry for hunters, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is. According to the DNR in Dane County alone last year there were more than 200 positive tests.

Iowa County had the highest number of positive CWD tests in 2020.

"You're talking to someone who last year shot a nice buck that looked healthy. I had tested and it was CWD positive. So we ended up throwing that venison out," said LaBarbera.

This is why the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and the CDC recommend testing for CWD.

"It also makes a difference for researchers to know where the outbreaks are in CWD or where the hotspots are. There's a long tradition in Wisconsin of using the venison that is harvested. It's healthy. It's free-ranging. It's organic. It's good for the body and soul just to be out hunting," LaBarbera said. 

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