The whitetails of the Great Lakes states seem ripe for a plague--if it's not here already. In 2001, chronic wasting disease (CWD)--a mad-cow-like prion scourge that is endemic among the elk of the mountain West states--struck Wisconsin's deer herd. Not surprisingly, the first cases were found in an area near Madison, where the deer densities are exceptionally high. Given the current whitetail numbers in Minnesota, some scientists think it is strictly a matter of time before chronic wasting disease emerges here.
That prospect has caused plenty of alarm among hunters and nonhunters alike. But maybe CWD, or some other plague, might not be such a terrible thing after all. Disease, in its ugly way, may do what we collectively have been unable or unwilling to do: restore a natural balance.