Two CWD Infected Deer Ecaped from Wisconsin Deer Farm Puts Wild Deer at Risk

Two of the bucks that escaped a deer farm in rural Fairchild have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. 

What is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)?

“Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), or prion disease, along with other animal diseases, such as scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The only known natural hosts for CWD are deer (Odocoileus species) and Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni)”  (source: Center for Disease Control (CDC))

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first identified as a fatal wasting syndrome of captive mule deer in the late 1960s in research facilities in Colorado and was recognized as a TSE in 1978. (Source Center for Disease Control)


Figure. Chronic wasting disease among free-ranging deer and elk by county, United States. Source: Cener for Disease Control (CDC)
“Increasing spread of CWD has raised concerns about the potential for increasing human exposure to the CWD agent. The foodborne transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to humans indicates that the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases…In 2001, the case of a 25-year-old man who reportedly died of a prion disease after an illness lasting ≈22 months was investigated.”  (Source: CDC) 

Wisconsin and CWD

“The lead paragraph of the news releases said little more. Paraphrasing now, state wildlife officials tested more than 5,400 deer for CWD in 2014, and found 329 sick ones, primarily in the endemic area of southern Wisconsin.”  (Source: CWD news downright scary by journalist Patrick Durkin) 


This two and a half year old buck was found dying of Chronic Wasting Disease in Iowa county – Photograph Patrick Durkin for the State Journal.

Disease rates in these areas relatively new to CWD are climbing far faster than when it first surfaced in 2001 and 2002. The disease rate for adult bucks is already about 27 percent north of Spring Green, and about 23 percent south of Richland Center. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources began monitoring the state’s wild white tailed deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in 1999. The first positives were found in 2002 through testing of hunter harvested deer in November 2001.

Captive deer farms in Wisconsin 


As of 2015 there were 421 registered deer farms in Wisconsin.

Latest news releases in Wisconsin has two CWD infected deer, They were among 21 that fled rural Fairchild farm

– State officials said two bucks from a deer farm in rural Fairchild have tested positive for chronic wasting disease following the escape of 21 deer in May from the farm owned by Rick Vojtik. All of the 228 deer in Vojtik’s herd were killed in November by state officials after the disease was detected. Leader Telegram Photo

Can wolves save Wisconsin’s wild deer herds?

A wild wolf is known to walk up to an abandoned deer bed and blow on it causing particles to flow upwards into the wolf’s olfactory sense. The wolf’s olfactory sense can smell disease in deer. In other words, wolves are nature’s disease detectors. Wolves can determine if a deer is old by smelling puss infected blood on a leaf chewed by a deer. photograph by Cai Priestley

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recommends not feeding deer in CWD infected areas. Deer herds licking/eating off of bait sites are at higher risk of contracting CWD. Baiting and feeding ban in Oneida, Forest and Vilas counties will begin Jan. 11, 2016

Are captive deer and elk farms contributing to CWD infection in wild deer? 

Chronic Wasting Disease, an infectious brain disease that has been killing deer, elk and moose both in the wild and on “captive farms” continues to stalk the land, expanding its domain to 23 states and two Canadian provinces since it was first identified in captive mule deer in a Colorado research facility in 1967.

Can humans become infected with CWD? 

“In 2001, the case of a 25-year-old man who reportedly died of a prion disease after an illness lasting ≈22 months was investigated (Table 2). Although this man had hunted deer only rarely, his grandfather hunted deer and elk throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s and regularly shared the venison with the case-patient’s family. The grandfather primarily hunted in southeastern Wyoming, around the known CWD-endemic area. The case-patient’s illness began with a seizure and progressed to fatigue, poor concentration, and depression. Memory loss, ataxia, speech abnormalities, combative behavior, and recurrent seizures also developed. Histopathologic, immunohistochemical, and Western blot testing of brain autopsy samples confirmed a prion disease diagnosis.” (source: CWD Risk for Transmission to Humans – Center for Disease Control) 
Read more on Chronic Wasting Disease from the following:

Agency: Two deer that escaped had CWD They were among 21 that fled rural Fairchild farm

Food and a Safety News, ‘Surprising’ Discovery Made About Chronic Wasting Disease New study shows that prions can bind to plants BY COOKSON BEECHER | JUNE 1, 2015

Patrick Durkin: CWD news downright scary; DNR hoping no one will notice

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects North American cervids (hoofed ruminant mammals, with males characteristically having antlers). 

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources CWD informationTransmission of CWD 

CWD Risk for Transmission to Humans


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