The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding deer hunters to participate in chronic wasting disease testing in designated areas, following lower than anticipated harvest numbers and hunter sample submissions during the opening of the firearms deer season last weekend.
“We saw lower than normal harvest numbers during opening weekend, and the number of samples we’ve collected so far is not as high as we’d anticipated,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR’s wildlife health program supervisor. “We are encouraging hunters to do their part to protect Minnesota’s wild deer herd by bringing their deer in for testing. Submitting samples gives us crucial data needed to make informed decisions on how we manage chronic wasting disease.”
The DNR shifted to voluntary sampling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the DNR is using unstaffed sampling stations to facilitate social distancing. Hunters in CWD management zones, control zones or surveillance areas are urged to drop off the head of deer 1 year of age or older at these stations. Hunters who have heads from deer harvested opening weekend can still drop those heads off at sampling stations.
“Every test result, whether CWD is detected or not, is important because it shows us where the disease is,” said Barbara Keller, DNR’s big game program leader. “We use this information to help us determine where we should target our management, keeping our efforts focused where the disease is most prevalent. It’s important for hunters to remember that even deer that look healthy can be positive for the disease.”
Hunters can prepare for sample drop-off by watching a CWD sampling demonstration video or following the steps outlined online.
“It’s as easy as filling out a tag and placing your deer’s head in our collection barrel, but it makes a big difference in protecting and keeping our wild deer as healthy as possible,” Carstensen said. “We need help from all hunters.”
The DNR website also includes options for sampling deer that allow hunters to keep the antlers or have the deer mounted.
For more information on CWD, the DNR’s continued efforts to manage the disease and how to help, visit the DNR’s chronic wasting disease management page. Hunters can also find hunting regulations and information about chronic wasting disease regulations and sampling in the 2020 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations page.