More Than 300 Deer to Be Killed at Wisconsin Farm in Historic Depopulation: Here’s Why

by Emily Morgan

Wisconsin is gearing up to have the largest deer depopulation in its history. According to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, more than 300 deers are set to be killed at a Wisconsin facility later this month.

DATCP ordered the depopulation after officials found chronic wasting disease, also known as CWD, at the facility last August.

Specifics of the depopulation, such as whether some bucks could be sold and transferred to a shooting preserve or the method used to kill the animals, delayed the process until now.

“About 325 to 350 white-tailed deer are in pens on the 40-acre property,” said Laurie Seale, owner of Maple Hill Farms, where the disease was first found.

However, organizers aren’t sure of the exact number because fawns continue to be born at the site. “CWD is devastating me and my business,” Seale admitted. “I know some of my animals will test positive, but it’s wrong to kill all of them.”

When Seale began deer farming in 1989, she got her primary source of income by selling big-antlered bucks to hunting ranches.

Since 2016, Maple Hill Farms has shipped 387 deer to 40 facilities in seven states, per DATCP records.

In the deer community, CWD is a fatal neurological disease that seeks out deer, elk, and moose. It’s caused by an infectious protein called a prion that attacks the animal’s brain. While CWD is mainly spread through close animal contact, the prions are also found in soil and water.

However, CWD has not been found to cause illness in humans. Yet, health officials recommend humans choose not to consume meat from a CWD-infected animal.

Spread of CWD leads to major deer depopulation in Wisconsin

According to the National Wildlife Health Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, since it was first discovered in Colorado in the 1960s, CWD has been found in 30 states and several foreign countries.

The disease first appeared in Wisconsin in both wild and captive deer in 2002. Per a data report, the state currently has 301 registered deer farms, and 38 are CWD-positive.

Additionally, 54% were CWD-positive in the last three years. Twenty of the 38 have also been depopulated, and indemnity has been paid to the owners.

According to DATCP reports, the disease was found at eight Wisconsin captive deer facilities last year. In addition, two more were added in 2022.

The disease has also continued to infect Wisconsin’s wild deer population. Sadly, regulations and today’s technology aren’t doing enough to prevent the spread of CWD. Now, both wild and captive deer are suffering fatal consequences.

In addition, there are other ramifications of CWD. Many are forced to close businesses, increase taxes, and agriculture and wildlife officials scramble to organize depopulation.