DAVIS COLUMN: Animal diseases continue to prompt uncertainty

DAVIS COLUMN: Animal diseases continue to prompt uncertainty

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The long-awaited ruffed grouse test results from 2018 leave most questions unanswered, but this is part one of a three-year data collection in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Twenty-nine percent of Wisconsin’s birds tested were impacted by West Nile Virus, while 12 percent were in Minnesota and 13 percent in Michigan tested positive for having antibodies consistent with WNV. Some of the Wisconsin and Michigan birds had the virus present in the animals’ hearts, but none of the Minnesota birds did.

This first year gives researchers a baseline and confirms that some grouse can carry the disease and develop antibodies to overcome WNV.

It is unknown how many ruffed grouse are dying from WNV and were not found, and how much the virus is impacting the population.

Samples are currently being collected by hunters who received kits to collect blood and hearts in 2019.

A Marquette University Law School Poll, as part of their fall survey of political candidates, also asked 799 voters about chronic wasting disease. There is no direct link between the two topics, but the data is certainly good information to ponder.

Most (46 percent) of those Wisconsin voters surveyed believe CWD has stayed the same; 27 percent believe it is increasing, and seven percent believe decreasing.

The majority of those surveyed, 62 percent, do not hunt deer or live in a household where there is someone who hunts deer.

Deer testing clearly show CWD is increasing. The number of counties with CWD-positive deer has increased from 13 counties in 2016 to 20 in 2017 and 21 last year. In 2002, there were five Wisconsin counties with at least one CWD-positive test.

Deer movement continues to be intensifying, as evidenced by close calls with vehicles and a number of close hits, too. Advice from past experiences, assume where there is one deer, there are others following. A running buck is unlikely to stop and wait for a vehicle to pass and often goes across a road, turns and comes right back in the opposite direction. Going slower is good advice. Expect to see deer at all times of the day and night, not just at dawn and dusk.

The late opening of the gun deer season (Nov. 23) suggests deer movement will have slowed considerably by opening weekend but then could intensify due to hunter movement.

Wayne Whitemarsh at McFarlane’s in Sauk City encourages outdoors-minded folks to get out to enjoy autumn. “This is a great time because pheasants are everywhere, duck hunters are out having a good time, deer are moving, walleyes are on fire. Fish are being caught on Lake Wisconsin like crazy.”

Don Martin at Martin’s in Monroe contends that pheasants are abundant, goose hunters are doing fine, deer movement are providing ample opportunities for hunting and viewing, too.

The weather is turning normal, adding to the excitement of being outdoors photographing, viewing, fishing, hunting, traveling and peeking at the last remaining color explosions autumn has to offer.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at sivadjam@mhtc.net or 608-924-1112.

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