COVID-19 not only disease on DNR’s mind this hunting season – what they want hunters to know

BLACK EARTH, Wis. – As hunters in Southern Wisconsin head out for the opening weekend of gun hunting season, they’ll notice changes linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 has seemed to shape up like no other year we can think of in memory,” said Bret Owsley of the Wisconsin DNR. “We’ve had to think about certain things that we do.”

That’s why this year, hunters will notice a major difference when it comes to testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). In years past, DNR staff would set up checkpoints throughout the state, where hunters could take deer for CWD testing. This year, the process is entirely DIY.

“(It’s) in order to maintain our staff’s safety as well as everyone else’s safety,” Owsley said.

This year, self-serve kiosks stand in place of regular testing sites. Hunters are provided all the tools necessary to remove deer heads, tag them, and leave them for the DNR to pick up later.

While it’s uncertain whether CWD posts a danger to humans, Owsley says the CDC advises against eating meat from infected animals. He says this year, results will likely take two weeks to return.

He says while the process is different, CWD testing is still just as important. Without it, he says the DNR misses out on vital information.

“Basically what we would do is lose a year’s worth of data. So we know it’s here. For us, what we’re trying to get an idea of is seeing if it’s spreading to new areas,” he said.