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home : sports / outdoors : sports/outdoors Monday, March 25, 2019

11/15/2017 2:24:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
DNR Asks Deer Hunters For Help In Controlling Chronic Wasting Disease

By Harland Hiemstra

In a few weeks, close to half a million hunters will take to the woods and fields of Minnesota in an activity that generates more than half a billion dollars in economic activity, the pursuit of the state's most hunted game species: the white-tailed deer.

With numbers like that, it's no wonder that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been devoting considerable time and resources to maintaining healthy populations of deer across the state. A major component of that effort will require hunters' patience and cooperation this fall as DNR mounts an expanded campaign to test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in 21 deer permit areas in southeast, central and north central Minnesota.

CWD is a contagious disease found in deer, elk and moose. It's included in a category of diseases known as "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" or TSEs, because it's characterized by a spongy degeneration of an infected animal's brain, leading to death. Signs include drooling, emaciation and abnormal behaviors. It's different from most diseases in that it's not transmitted by bacteria or a virus, but by a type of protein known as prions, which can be spread from one animal to another through saliva, urine and feces. Scientists don't completely understand how prions transmit the disease, but it's believed that the infectious agent can persist in the environment for years.

CWD is thought to have existed in mule deer found in western states for more than 30 years, but it first appeared in Minnesota in 2002, in a captive deer farm. The first wild deer with CWD in Minnesota was found in 2010, near an Olmsted County elk farm where the disease had appeared the preceding year. Then in 2016, 11 wild whitetails tested positive for CWD around Preston in the southeastern part of the state.

To control the disease and limit its spread, DNR is requiring CWD testing of all deer harvested during all seasons in deer permit area 603, the area near Preston. The removal of carcasses out of deer permit area 603 is also restricted until after a negative test result has been received. To determine if CWD occurs beyond the Preston area, hunters harvesting deer from the southeast Minnesota permit areas 343, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349 on the opening weekend of the firearms season (Nov. 4 and 5) will be required to bring their deer to a DNR sampling station so that they can be tested. This testing is mandatory.

The discovery of CWD-infected deer raised on farms in Crow Wing and Meeker counties means that wild deer harvested from permit areas surrounding those farms also will need to be tested during the first two days of the firearms deer season. Additional deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 155, 171, 172, 218, 219, 229, 242, 246, 247, 248, 249, 277, 283 and 285. Wild deer in these areas are not known to have CWD. Testing should determine if any are infected.

DNR will staff 46 conveniently located sampling stations in the affected areas from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 5. Proactive surveillance and testing for disease is a proven strategy that allows DNR to manage CWD by finding it early and reacting quickly and aggressively to control it. More information about CWD, mandatory testing and the location of sampling stations can be found on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/cwd. Hunters can learn about deer permit areas at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

While there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, recent research in Canada and Germany suggests that certain types of monkeys may develop a fatal brain disease if fed meat from CWD infected deer and elk. To minimize the risk to humans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that hunters take a few common sense precautions:

• Don't shoot, handle or eat meat from deer and elk that look sick or are acting strangely.

• When field-dressing deer, wear latex or rubber gloves and avoid the use of household knives or other kitchen utensils.

• If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.

• If your animal tests positive for CWD, do not eat meat from that animal.

St. Paul, MN



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