Smith: Maple Hill Farms deer herd depopulated due to chronic wasting disease
GILMAN - The herd of 301 white-tailed deer was eliminated last week at a northern Wisconsin farm where chronic wasting disease had been detected, according to officials with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
The depopulation at Maple Hill Farms near Gilman was the largest in the history of the state's captive cervid industry.
The kill included 238 adult deer and 63 fawns, according to data provided by farm owner Laurie Seale and DATCP.
Federal indemnity will be used to compensate Seale for the elimination of the animals, according to Kevin Hoffman, DATCP public information officer.
The federal fund allows a maximum payment of $3,000 per animal.
However, since the depopulation plan was signed last year, Seale said she would not receive compensation for the fawns. Further, many of the adult deer would be valued at less than $1,000 each.
The animals were killed by lethal injection on July 25, 26 and 28, Seale said. The carcasses were removed from the farm and taken to an undisclosed site for disposal.
Tissue taken from the animals will be tested for CWD; results may take several weeks to be released, according to DATCP.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk and moose caused by an infectious protein called a prion that affects the animal's brain, according to the CWD Alliance. The disease is mostly spread through close animal contact but the prions are also stable in soil and water.
The disease has not been found to cause illness in livestock or humans. However, health officials do not recommend humans consume meat from a CWD-positive animal.
Since being found in Colorado in the 1960s, CWD has been documented in 30 states and several foreign countries, according to the National Wildlife Health Center of the U.S. Geological Survey. The disease was detected in Wisconsin in wild and captive deer in 2002.
The disease spreads relatively slowly in the wild but when CWD-positive animals are moved by humans in vehicles, whether by live shipments of animals between deer farms or when hunters transport diseased carcasses, it can move hundreds of miles in a single day.
Regulations, technology and enforcement have failed to prevent the spread of the disease in the wild and captive deer populations.
Wisconsin has 301 registered deer farms and 38 are CWD-positive, according to state data. Twenty, or 54%, have been found to be CWD-positive in the last three years. Twenty-one of the 38 have been depopulated and indemnity paid to the owners.
Seale started deer farming in 1989; her primary revenue was obtained by selling big-antlered bucks to shooting preserves.
Maple Hill Farms shipped 387 deer to 40 facilities in seven states since July 2016, according to DATCP records.
After CWD was found in a 6-year-old doe at Maple Hill Farms in August 2021, agriculture officials attempted to trace all of those shipments.
At least two of the animals, including one sent to Van Ooyen Whitetails in Antigo, tested positive for CWD.
As a result the herd of about 50 deer at Van Ooyen was removed in a separate depopulation order May 18.
The Maple Hill Farms herd removal is the largest in terms of animals and indemnity.
The largest previous depopulation was in November 2015 when 228 deer were killed by DATCP at Fairchild Whitetails in southeastern Eau Claire County.
The state paid the farm owner $298,000 in indemnity in that case. Thirty-four deer from the culled herd tested positive for CWD.
If all terms of the removal plan are fulfilled, Seale is likely to receive several hundred thousand dollars for the 238 adult deer.
The federal indemnity is from a U.S. Department of Agriculture account funded by taxpayer dollars.
Fifty-percent of the payment is withheld until the facility has been cleaned and inspected.
Clean-up requires scooping-up dirt and straw around feeders, shelters and high traffic areas and burying the material, Seale said.
State and federal officials will then perform additional disinfection of the property, Hoffman said.
No deer or other cervids may be stocked on the premises until the quarantine is released, which will be at least five years following cleaning and disinfection, according to DATCP.
Seale said she had no plans to resume deer farming, but another livestock producer might keep sheep on the 40-acre property.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 301 deer killed at Wisconsin facility due to chronic wasting disease