Wildlife officials are on high alert after deer in two more states tested positive for chronic wasting disease. Three deer taken by hunters in Wisconsin were found to have CWD and another case was reported last fall in South Dakota.
The Wisconsin DNR has announced plans to kill up to 500 deer in a 400-square mile area near where three whitetails harvested last fall tested positive for CWD. The South Dakota deer, one of 500 animals taken by hunters and sent to a Wyoming laboratory, was the first wild deer in that state to be confirmed with CWD. Not all of the 500 heads had been tested as of this writing.
Wisconsin and South Dakota join Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska as states with confirmed outbreaks of the disease in wild deer and/or elk. CWD has been found in captive herds in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Montana and Canada.
In Colorado, biologists and hunters will kill more than 4,000 deer in an attempt to contain CWD. State wildlife commissioners called for the unprecedented reduction over the next two to five years, despite opposition from some property owners and animals-rights activists. Colorado Division of Wildlife veterinarian Mike Miller, one of the nation's foremost authorities on CWD, says every state that had a game farm within the last 10 years should immediately begin testing wild and captive herds of elk and deer for CWD.
The Wisconsin cases put CWD 900 miles farther east than any known outbreak prior to last fall. The density of whitetails in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania, is a huge concern to wildlife managers. With an estimated 20 million deer in the eastern parts of the U.S. and Canada, CWD -- which is related to "mad cow disease" -- potentially could spread rapidly. Wildlife officials in Minnesota and other states that have large numbers of elk farms -- where the disease if believed to originate -- coupled with very high densities of whitetail deer are concerned about the potential for an outbreak of CWD.
Said one CWD-watcher: "I think we're watching a horrible train wreck in slow motion."
DU must have done it
In other news, my vote for the most ridiculous rumor of the new millennium is the one some Southern duck hunters apparently used to explain the poor duck season that wrapped up in January. They claim Ducks Unlimited baited ducks in northern states, shortstopping their migration down the Mississippi Flyway.
I can understand how that explanation might have made sense to a bunch of duck hunters examining the season through the bottom of a glass. But how their bourbon-induced logic survived the light of day -- and the hangover that must have followed -- escapes me. Apparently the inane rumor became so rampant that the Memphis-based conservation organization felt compelled to respond. In an open letter to southern DU members, volunteers and staff, Ken Babcock of DU's regional office in Jackson, Mississippi attempted to "pour cold water" on the "preposterous rumor" that was "spreading like wildfire."
This laughable conspiracy theory assumes that ducks are required to check in at border crossings and designated staging areas along the migration route. How else could DU spread enough grain to shortstop their migration? Or perhaps the organization spread a mile-wide swath of corn from Nebraska to Illinois? A more plausible explanation: Looking at the spring breeding counts, which have fallen dramatically the last two years, one might assume there simply aren't as many ducks as the excessively liberal season suggested.
Paddlefish on the prowl
If ducks moved around as much as one particular paddlefish the lower Mississippi Flyway would have had a great season.
A paddlefish tagged and fitted with a sonic transmitter in South Dakota in 1995 was caught last summer -- in the Cumberland River in western Kentucky! To get there, the fish had to go through two Missouri River dams in South Dakota, down the Missouri to St. Louis, into the Mississippi River, down the Mississippi to the Ohio River and finally into the Cumberland River.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracked the fish from May to October of 1995, last making contact in Lake Francis Case in South Dakota. Imagine the look on fisheries biologists' faces when the prehistoric monster showed up in Kentucky six years later.
Babe Winkelman of Brainerd has a "Good Fishing" television show on Fox Sports Network, The Outdoor Channel, WGN-TV and the USA Network.
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