State Kills 228 Deer at Game Farm After CWD Found

State and federal agents on Wednesday finished killing 228 captive white-tailed deer at an Eau Claire County farm where at least 26 deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The depopulation was performed by veterinarians and animal health technicians from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and U.S. Department of Agriculture-APHIS.

The 163 adult deer and 65 fawns were killed by injectable euthanasia or sharpshooting, according to DATCP officials.

State officials expressed a desire over the summer to depopulate the captive cervid facility owned by Richard Vojtik near Fairchild in southeastern Eau Claire County.

But the action was delayed as the state sought indemnity funding from a federal source. When it became clear in early October federal funds would not be available, DATCP decided to proceed with state funds, said Paul McGraw, state veterinarian.

Wisconsin law allows farmers to be compensated for condemned animals. The statute allows the farmer to receive up to two-thirds of the appraised value of the herd and a maximum value of $1,500 per animal.

A USDA agent performed the appraisal at Vojtik's farm, McGraw said, but the value was not known on Wednesday.

Under an agreement with state officials, Vojtik will maintain the farm's fences for five years and not put deer or other cervids in the area. Agents with DATCP will disinfect the property, McGraw said.

In addition to a 7-year-old doe found to be CWD-positive in June, two other deer at the facility — one each in September and October — tested positive for the disease. And preliminary tests from the first two days of depopulation indicate 23 additional deer are CWD-positive, according to DATCP officials.

The number may rise in the coming days.

Chronic wasting disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob. The diseases are caused by an abnormal protein, or prion. Chronic wasting disease is fatal to deer but has not been found to cause illness in livestock or humans. Health officials do not recommend humans consume meat from a CWD-positive animal.

No wild deer in Eau Claire County has been found with the disease.

The depopulation took place Monday through Wednesday. Heads from all the adult deer were removed and tissue samples were sent to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for initial testing. Any preliminary positive tests for CWD will then be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation. Confirmatory test results are not expected until the week of Nov. 23.

Carcasses that tested positive for CWD were transported in a double-lined truck to an anaerobic digester, while carcasses from negative animals will be landfilled, according to DATCP officials.

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