MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Midwest wildlife officials gathered Wednesday to discuss how they might better combat chronic wasting disease, which has been spreading among the region’s deer herds.

Among those at the two-day conference in Madison were wildlife officials from Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and two Native American tribes — the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole kicked off the meeting by imploring the attendees to collaborate with one another.

“We’ve all been working trying to stop it on our own. That has to change,” Cole said. “It is our region that is at stake. We have a great opportunity to show the public at large that we are on it.”

He told reporters that the conference is “unprecedented” and that states need to make sure they’re not spending money on the same research.

The agenda calls for group discussions on the state of research on the disease, the creation of a common platform for interstate communication on it and the best management practices.

State conservation officials from Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin were slated to make presentations on Wednesday.

The group is expected to conclude the conference on Thursday by making recommendations on how to improve regional management of the disease, which attacks the brains of deer and causes the animals to grow thin, act abnormally and eventually die. The disease threatens the deer hunting industry throughout the Midwest.

The disease had been found in at least 24 states in the continental U.S. as well as two Canadian provinces as of early June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also been reported in reindeer and moose in Norway, Finland and Sweden.

The disease was first detected in Wisconsin in 2002. Infections have since been detected in 35 of the state’s 72 counties.

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