TUE AM News: Preliminary figures suggest potential rebound in deer hunt figures in southern region; DNR announces invasive species criminal conviction

— With the gun deer hunting season less than three weeks away, officials are hopeful that deer harvest totals in parts of the state will see a rebound this year. 

Jeff Pritzl, deer program specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, told WisconsinEye that preliminary figures from this year’s bow and crossbow seasons suggest a return to normal in the state’s southern region following a decline in the number of deer tagged in 2021. 

“There maybe was something else going on last year that might have been more related to COVID and the behaviors associated with that,” he said yesterday. “We actually had a pretty good bump in harvest in 2020, so that drop last year might have been a correction to what happened in 2020.” 

The annual gun deer hunt brings more than $1 billion to the state’s economy each year, according to state estimates. This year’s eight-day gun deer season begins Nov. 19. 

DNR figures show 309,392 deer were killed by hunters in 2021, which was down from 339,901 in 2020. WisEye’s Newsmakers host Lisa Pugh noted the southern farmland management zone saw a 17 percent decline in deer harvest numbers. 

While the southern region of the state has the highest concentration of chronic wasting disease cases, Pritzl said it’s difficult to determine if that decline was linked to CWD. The disease was first identified in the state about 20 years ago, and Wisconsin had a “measurable drop” in hunters participating in the following year’s deer season, Pritzl explained. 

“Even if that’s only 5 percent, that’s a lot of people when you’re talking about over half a million deer hunters,” he said. “About half of those people that stepped back that initial year came back in, but we’ve had this slow drop in total participation in deer hunting.” 

Chronic wasting disease has been identified in 60 of the state’s 72 counties, and the DNR is urging hunters to avoid bringing deer carcasses from areas with high levels of CWD into other parts of the state. 

The state has other measures in place aimed at reducing the spread of the disease, such as bans on baiting and feeding deer across much of the state. But despite these efforts, Pritzl said the area in which CWD is commonly found has been spreading with new cases popping up at commercial deer farms as well as in wild populations. 

Watch a video of Pritzl’s remarks here: https://wiseye.org/2022/10/31/newsmakers-previewing-wisconsins-2022-gun-deer-season-in-wisconsin/ 

— State officials have announced the first criminal convictions under Wisconsin’s invasive species law following an investigation that began in 2020. 

The investigation was related to the importation of red swamp crayfish, which are native to southern U.S. states. 

According to Lt. Warden Robert Stroess, administrator of commercial fish and aquatic species in trade enforcement for DNR, these animals are illegal because “they cause havoc in our waterways by out-competing other species, damaging shorelines, and burrowing deep into the ground to avoid winter freezing.” 

After an investigation prompted by grocery stores selling these crayfish, officials identified “a significant illegal importation” of the animals into the Great Lakes region. Distributors were sent letters to let them know these shipments were illegal, but the Louisiana Crawfish Company was found to have continued shipping about 13,000 more of the crayfish into Wisconsin after having received the letter. 

A DNR release shows the state Department of Justice charged the business with 15 counts of intentionally transporting, possessing, or transferring invasive species. The Dane County Circuit Court accepted a guilty plea from the company late this summer, and then convicted Louisiana Crawfish Company of 10 criminal counts. 

The DNR says the company was ordered to pay $34,380 in fines and other fees, while the other five counts were dismissed under the plea deal. 

“Our hope is the outcome of this case can serve as a deterrent to other wholesale distributors to keep invasive red swamp crayfish out of Wisconsin,” Stroess said in the release. 

See more details here: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/dnr-crayfish-case-nets-first-criminal-convictions-under-wis-invasive-species-law 

— WEC Energy Group says it plans to acquire 80 percent ownership of a 1,500-acre solar energy project in Illinois. 

The Milwaukee-based company yesterday announced its plans for the Maple Flats Solar Energy Center, located in Clay County, Illinois. According to the release, the project will include 800,000 solar panels with commercial operation planned for 2024. 

WEC Energy Group says it will spend about $360 million for 80 percent ownership interest in the project, which is being developed by Chicago-based Invenergy. 

“The Maple Flats project demonstrates the growing opportunities for our Infrastructure business as we continue to invest in the production of affordable, reliable and clean energy,” WEC Energy Group Executive Chairman Gale Klappa said in a statement. 

See the release: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wec-energy-group-to-acquire-80-ownership-of-maple-flats-solar-energy-center-301662975.html 

— While this year’s grain corn harvest is falling behind last year’s rate and the five-year average, the soybean harvest is proceeding more quickly, according to the latest USDA crop report. 

Thirty-seven percent of corn for grain was harvested as of Sunday, which is 11 days behind last year’s harvest and two days behind the five-year average. 

And the soybean harvest was 86 percent complete — two days ahead of last year and nine days ahead of the average. 

Meanwhile, little rainfall and above average temperatures last week helped spur the growth of small grains and cover crops, report authors noted. Seventy-nine percent of winter wheat had emerged, which is three days behind last year but eight days ahead of the average. 

See the report: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/2022/WI-Crop-Progress-10-31-22.pdf 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i> 

— Scientists for a recent University of Louisville study relied on a screening probe developed by Wauwatosa-based Vivid Microscopy. 

And Dem U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes and GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson discussed the possibility of holding a referendum on abortion in appearances on WISN’s “UpFront,” which is produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com

For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.

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