Originally posted by: muskygirl on 11/17/2006 4:27:09 PM
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Screw on silencers and take out the deer en masse. Force hunters to kill two does for every buck. Just give up all together.
Suggestions on how the state Department of Natural Resources should deal with chronic wasting disease poured off the lips of hunters and landowners Friday after a state audit found the agency's efforts to thin Wisconsin's deer herd in hopes of wiping out the fatal brain disease have fallen flat.
And that's the problem.
"Everybody is coming up with ideas but I haven't heard a good one yet," said Ed Harvey Jr., chair of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, an influential group of sportsmen who advise the DNR.
Wisconsin has been struggling to control the disease since it was discovered in the state in 2002. The DNR's main tactic has been to kill as many deer as possible in areas where the disease has been detected in hopes of thinning the herd and reducing the chance the disease could spread.
The agency has appealed to landowners and hunters to kill as many deer as possible in designated zones where infected deer have been found, offering multiple hunting seasons in those areas, free tags and rewards for dead deer.
The Legislative Audit Bureau's report Thursday concluded the DNR's $27 million plan is one of the most aggressive strategies in the 14 states where the disease has been found.
But the report said the agency's herd reduction plans haven't worked. The deer population in the CWD zones has increased, thanks in part to a lack of hunter and landowner support for the agency strategies, the audit said.
Many hunters don't want to kill more deer than they can eat, don't support bounties on deer and believe the DNR's population goals are unattainable, it said.
DNR Secretary Scott Hassett sent a memo to the Natural Resources Board, which oversees his agency, this week warning the agency's strategies must be modified and DNR staff plan to meet with the public early next year to figure out what to do next.
Todd Mellen, 41, of Oregon, Wis., hunts in Vernon County. He says the DNR has to "do something outside the box."
The agency should simplify the hunting seasons in the zone, use silencers to kill groups of deer without scaring others away and even consider poison, he said.
"If you want to be aggressive about it, be aggressive about it," Mellen said. "If it's brown, it's down."
Chris Marsden, 43, of Edgerton hunts in Jackson and Jefferson counties. He said landowners rarely let the DNR or hunters on their land and when they do, they often let them take only one deer.
Marsden said the DNR should expand its earn-a-buck program, which requires hunters to shoot a doe before taking a buck, to make hunters take two does instead of one.
"They shouldn't give up," Marsden said.
Jeff Whitford, 21, of Madison, who hunts in a CWD zone in Iowa County, said hunters will never take does before prize bucks. The only hope of instilling that idea is teach it to children in hunter safety courses.
He suggested the DNR leave the disease alone for five years, then revisit it.
Mark Peck of Arena, a member of Citizens and Landowners for a Rational Response, said more landowners would help if the DNR goes back to only two hunts in the disease zones, rekindling deer hunting's holiday feeling and injecting excitement back into hunting.
And the agency has to come up with realistic population goals, he said.
"If landowners think they want to shoot the deer down to nothing, they're not going to buy into that," Peck said. "Personally, I don't think we'll ever eradicate CWD from the landscape."
Scott Craven, a University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife ecology professor who hunts in the Iowa County CWD zone, said it will take a major tragedy, like the disease infecting a human or livestock, before everyone would agree something must be done.
The DNR has done everything it can, he said, but the agency can't quit. If the disease is left unchecked there's no telling whether enough deer will survive for future generations to hunt, he said.
"History is not going to judge us very kindly," Craven said. "It's a hell of a mess."
Hassett's memo mentions a CWD advisory group told the agency it can't rely on hunters to control the disease and will have to use "nontraditional and, potentially, controversial methods."
The memo doesn't elaborate, but DNR spokesman Bob Manwell said the phrase refers to longer hunting seasons, more incentives and more earn-a-buck requirements.
Manwell said he hopes anyone with suggestions finds their way to meetings with the DNR next year. He conceded there likely will never be consensus agreement on a new plan, however.
"Not everybody is necessarily going to walk away with what they want," Manwell said.