Special deer hunt ends; CWD found in 1 more deer

A special chronic wasting disease 16-day deer hunt in southeastern Minnesota concluded Jan. 15 with one additional case of the disease found among hundreds tested. Now, landowner shooting permits take effect in an attempt to further lower the deer population in the area and stop the disease from spreading.

The latest case of the CWD-infected deer was an adult female, taken near Preston very close to four other positive animals, providing another piece of evidence that suggests the disease is localized. This brings the number of CWD positive wild deer in southeastern Minnesota to six; results are still pending on more than 100 samples.

“The special hunt was designed to assess prevalence across the CWD zone, begin the process of lowering deer densities in the area, and remove infected animals from the population,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.

In total, 873 deer were taken during the special hunt. Of those, 600 adults were submitted for CWD testing. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff also have been opportunistically sampling vehicle-killed deer, deer found dead and heads hunters brought in from the end of the regular deer seasons. Overall, 634 CWD samples have been collected since Dec. 31, and results are still pending for 114 samples.

Of the six wild deer that tested positive for CWD, none were described as behaving abnormally, which may be further indication that the infection is recent, Cornicelli said. If the infection is recent, early and aggressive action is the best way to eliminate the infection, he said.

“The special hunt really illustrated how important it is to respond immediately to a wildlife health threat. Had we taken a more passive approach, the CWD positive deer would have survived another year and continued to infect healthy deer,” he said.

“Hunter cooperation was very good and although most hunters are disappointed that CWD was discovered, they recognize the importance of not allowing CWD to become established in Minnesota,” Cornicelli said.

Next phase
So far, almost 300 landowner shooting permits have been issued. These permits allow landowners to remove deer from their property.

“We work individually with landowners, go through the permit conditions and make arrangements for testing the deer they harvest,” Cornicelli said. “DNR staff believe these permits will provide additional information regarding the extent of CWD in the area.”

The DNR also has been working directly with landowners in and around the properties where the positive deer were taken. Landowner permits expire Sunday, Feb. 12. DNR staff will monitor the distribution and number of deer taken under landowner shooting permits and then make a decision regarding using the USDA to remove additional deer.

“The information we have right now points to a disease cluster, so we may look to the USDA to remove additional deer in that area,” Cornicelli said.

If additional infected deer are discovered during the landowner shooting phase, those positive results will be posted on the DNR’s website at www.mndnr.gov/cwdcheck. Once landowner shooting concludes, the DNR will issue a news release with final results and detail the next steps in the disease management process.

CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose but is not known to affect human health. Prior to the six recent discoveries, the only other wild deer with the disease found in Minnesota was harvested near Pine Island in 2010.

The DNR responds to and manages CWD in wild deer, while the Minnesota Board of Animal Health regulates farmed deer. The Board of Animal Health shares information with the DNR and works with the USDA as it investigates CWD cases in captive deer.

For more information, including a map of the disease management zone, locations of infected deer, landowner information, special deer hunt information, deer feeding ban, common questions and answers and hunter information, visit the DNR’s CWD webpage at www.mndnr.gov/cwd. With the rapid pace that information is generated, people are strongly encouraged to keep checking the DNR’s CWD webpage for information.