THE DISCOVERY of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in both fenced and wild deer in Oneida County should prompt extra prevention efforts, and the state’s Adopt-a-Dumpster program might be worthy of embracing.

As you may know, several deer from a game preserve in Three Lakes have tested positive for the disease in recent years. Worse yet, two wild deer from the Harrison Hills area in southwestern Oneida County tested positive for CWD.

We’ve got hunters legally moving deer carcasses between adjacent counties, so under today’s rules, untested deer carcasses from Oneida could end up in Vilas, Forest, Langlade or Lincoln counties. And Oneida could end up with carcasses from any of the other counties.

Because the prions that cause CWD can live in the soil contaminated by a diseased carcass, proper disposal of deer carcass waste is a major factor in containing the spread of the disease.

That’s why the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has instituted an Adopt-a-Dumpster program that ensures deer carcasses will be taken to a licensed landfill where deer have no access to them.

In its second year, the program has been expanded to include funds for cost-sharing options with participating organizations which may not be able or willing to pay 100% of the costs.

We have organizations here that might be able to step up with funding, from Whitetails Unlimited to local fish and game clubs or conservation groups. For starters, there’s Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Improvement Association along with fish and game clubs in St. Germain and Land O’ Lakes.

According to Tami Ryan, the DNR’s acting director for the Bureau of Wildlife Management, exposure to an area where a CWD-positive carcass has decomposed could be enough to cause infection in deer.

“Because of this risk, it is vital that deer carcasses, including all bones and other deer carcass waste from butchering, are disposed of in a way to reduce this infection risk,” she said.

Erin Larson, the DNR’s wildlife health section chief, said they are still working out the details for this fall’s cost-sharing Adopt-a-Dumpster program.

What Larson knows for sure is that last year when 16 dumpsters statewide were fully funded by private parties, the ballpark cost averaged about $1,000 per dumpster.

“Last year, we collected about 39 tons of venison waste or about 1,400 carcasses,” Larson said. “After butchering, each deer produces about 55 pounds of waste that includes the head, spine, bones and legs.”

She said there are many factors involved, including the tonnage charges that apply in the local landfills that accept the carcasses and how often the dumpsters are emptied.

“Obviously the dumpsters would need to be emptied more often in early fall under warmer conditions,” she said. “We are providing bags for the early fall period to cut down on scavengers and odor.”

Under today’s regulations, hunters in any of the 56 CWD-affected counties can’t transport deer carcasses further than an adjacent county unless they are going to a licensed taxidermist or a commercial venison processing facility, because they dispose of carcasses in secure landfills.

Hopefully the day will come when hunters have so many dumpster and landfill options available that it becomes a custom to dispose of carcasses properly. That way we won’t need laws that restrict the movement of carcasses, which puts an extreme burden on hunters who get their venison more than one county away from home.

With the baiting and feeding of deer banned in the CWD-affected counties of Vilas, Oneida and Forest, some hunters have rerouted their efforts to central and southern farmland counties where deer are more plentiful and where agricultural practices make it easier to concentrate deer.

Others have relocated their efforts to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or other Wisconsin counties that haven’t yet been designated as “CWD-affected.” Since it was first legalized by the DNR in 1980, baiting has been proven as a very effective aid to deer hunters.

The deer season is quickly approaching in Wisconsin, with archers taking to the woods on Saturday, Sept. 14. That opener includes both bow and crossbow seasons.

It is highly likely that the DNR will again establish CWD-testing drop-off sites in this area, and that they will probably offer some surveillance tags in parts of Oneida County where they want to ensure hunters will turn in a specific number of deer heads for testing.

However, none of those details had been provided prior to this writing, though I got a notice about a press conference that was scheduled Tuesday morning in Madison. So maybe we’ll know more sometime this week.

Judging the DNR by its lack of organization to date on these topics, I’d say potential Adopt-a-Dumpster sponsors should pretty much figure on footing the bills alone.

But keep in mind that changing the custom on how we dispose of deer carcasses could someday pay big dividends in the fight to curb the spread of CWD. 

We don’t need to increase the number of sites in the wild where infected, decomposing carcasses are putting the CWD prions into the environment. It’s one way of reducing the risk of infection for healthy animals.

Unfortunately, conservation takes time and costs money. It’s going to take a commitment over multiple years to give hunters better access to proper disposal sites for deer carcasses.

There’s no time like the pres­ent to start the dialogue on this issue. The deer season is just 10 days away.