GILMAN – The herd of 301 white-tailed deer was eliminated last week at a farm in northern Wisconsin where chronic debilitating disease had been discovered, according to officials with the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Consumer Protection.
The depopulation at Maple Hill Farms near Gilman was the largest in the history of the state’s captive deer industry.
The murder involved 238 adult deer and 63 fawns, according to data from farm owner Laurie Seale and DATCP.
Federal damages will be used to compensate Seale for the animals’ elimination, according to Kevin Hoffman, DATCP spokesperson.
The federal fund allows a maximum payment of $3,000 per animal.
But since the depopulation plan was signed last year, Seale said she would not get any compensation for the fawns.
The animals were killed by lethal injection on July 25, 26 and 28, Seale said. The carcasses were removed from the farm and taken to an undisclosed location for disposal.
Tissue from the animals is tested for CWD; According to DATCP, it could take several weeks for the results to be released.
Chronic wasting disease is a deadly neurological disease of deer, elk and elk caused by an infectious protein called a prion that affects the animal’s brain, according to the CWD Alliance. The disease is usually spread through close contact with animals, but the prions are also stable in soil and water.
The disease has not been found to cause disease in livestock or humans. However, health officials do not recommend that people consume meat from a CWD positive animal.
Since its discovery in Colorado in the 1960s, CWD has been documented in 30 states and several other countries, according to the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center. The disease was discovered in Wisconsin in 2002 in wild and captive deer.
The disease spreads relatively slowly in the wild, but when CWD-positive animals are moved by humans in vehicles, whether in live shipments of animals between deer farms or when hunters transport diseased carcasses, it can move hundreds of miles in a single day.
Regulations, technology and enforcement have failed to prevent the spread of the disease in wild and captive deer populations.
Wisconsin has 301 registered deer farms and 38 are CWD positive, according to state data. Twenty, or 54%, have been found to be CWD positive in the past three years. Twenty-one of the 38 have been depopulated and compensation has been paid to the owners.
Seale started keeping deer in 1989; its main income was obtained from the sale of large antlers to hunting preserves.
Maple Hill Farms has shipped 387 deer to 40 facilities in seven states since July 2016, according to DATCP records.
After CWD was found in a 6-year-old doe at Maple Hill Farms in August 2021, agricultural officials tried to trace all those shipments.
At least two of the animals, including one sent to Van Ooyen Whitetails in Antigo, tested positive for CWD.
As a result, the herd of about 50 deer near Van Ooyen was removed in a separate eviction notice on May 18.
Maple Hill Farms’ herd removal is the largest in terms of animals and fees.
The largest previous depopulation occurred in November 2015 when 228 deer were killed by DATCP in Fairchild Whitetails in southeastern Eau Claire County.
In that case, the state paid the farm owner $298,000 in damages. Thirty-four deer from the culled herd tested positive for CWD.
If all the terms of the removal plan are met, Seale could receive $714,000 for the 238 mature deer.
The federal fee comes from an account of the United States Department of Agriculture, funded by taxpayers’ money.
Fifty percent of the payment will be withheld until the facility is cleaned and inspected.
Cleanup requires shoveling dirt and straw around feeders, shelters and high-traffic areas and burying the material, Seale said.
State and federal officials will then perform additional disinfection of the property, Hoffman said.
No deer or other cervids should be kept on the property until the quarantine is released, which will be at least five years after cleaning and disinfection, according to DATCP.
Seale said she had no plans to resume deer farming, but another rancher could keep sheep on the 40-acre property.