Wisconsin officials, worried that deer are multiplying faster than they can kill them, have launched a new effort to kill as many deer as possible by the end of March in their campaign to halt the spread of a deadly brain ailment.

The Department of Natural Resources is bringing in as many as 50 sharpshooters each night and enlisting the help of landowners to kill deer in a 400-square-mile eradication zone west of Madison. Deer are being baited with piles of sweet corn and molasses.

Since October, about 8,000 deer have been killed in Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties, about the same number of fawns born last year. The goal is to head off the spread of the illness, known as chronic wasting disease, which attacks the brains of deer and elk. Affected animals, losing the ability to maintain normal bodily functions, waste away and die. Officials launched an aggressive campaign last year to kill 25,000 deer, but the effort has been slowed by landowners who oppose what they see as an unnecessary slaughter.

"You could say that we are behind the eight ball," DNR spokesman Greg Matthews told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's a little disappointing. Part of it is driven by people who disagreed with what we are doing, and they're not shooting deer."

-- Robert E. Pierre

Wisconsin state wildlife health specialist Kery Beheler and chronic wasting disease specialist Carol Batha tag deer that were killed during a spring hunt at Blue Mounds State Park in Wisconsin on May 14, 2002. The deer were to be tested for evidence of chronic wasting disease.