Kicked off last fall, the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator study was launched as part of Governor Scott Walker’s commitment to continuing the battle against chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin.

The five-year study is the largest and most comprehensive deer research project in the history of the state and aims to dig deeper into deer survival and population sustainability in America’s Dairyland.

The multifaceted study is being conducted across a number of counties across the southern regions of the state.  Aside from the effects of chronic wasting disease, these studies will also examine factors such as predation, habitat suitability, and hunter harvest.

Last month, the Department of Natural Resources completed the fawn collaring phase for this year’s portion of the study. In total, 91 fawns were collared during the months of May and June, allowing biologists to effectively track their survival through the coming fall and winter months.

“They’re small lightweight elastic collars,” elk and deer research scientist Dan Storm told WPR. “They expand as the deer grows and then after about a year to 18 months the collar eventually just rots off the animal, but that’s how we can measure fawn survival.”

During the tenure time that fawns wear the collars, researchers are able to not only track their behavior and movement, they are also able to measure the weight, sex, and age of the animals and biopsy them to determine any presence of CWD.

The collaring project is two-fold in nature as it allows biologists to monitor the prevalence of CWD all the while monitoring other survival factors such as predation.  As such, the department also has plans to collar 30 bobcats and coyotes this coming fall as part of the study.

According to the DNR, a complete update on the progress of the study is expected at next month’s Natural Resources Board meeting.