Precautionary testing during the first two days of firearms deer season will determine whether chronic wasting disease may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north-central Minnesota.
“Wild deer are not known to have CWD in these areas, and this is the second year of surveillance there,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Mandatory testing of wild deer that hunters harvest is a proactive and preventative measure to protect Minnesota’s wild deer populations.”
During opening weekend of the 2017 firearms season, 10,500 deer were tested and the disease was not detected. Because so many deer were sampled last year, DNR is reducing the size of the surveillance area this year.
Central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 277 and 283 east of Highway 4; 219 south of Highway 55; and 285 north of Highway 7. Hunters who kill a deer in one of these permit areas but outside the surveillance zone do not need to submit the deer for testing.
North-central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 242 and 247.
All hunters in affected deer permit areas will be required to have their deer tested on Saturday, Nov. 3, or Sunday, Nov. 4. After field dressing their deer, hunters must take them to a sampling station. DNR staff will remove lymph nodes, which will be submitted for laboratory testing.
Hunters must register their deer by phone, internet or in person. Harvest registration will not be available at CWD sampling stations.
Testing in north-central and central Minnesota became necessary after CWD was found in multiple captive deer near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County. Test results will determine whether CWD may have been passed from these captive deer to wild deer.
Deer harvested in southeastern Minnesota’s permit areas 255, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349 are subject to mandatory testing on Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 17-18 because of their proximity to CWD-infected wild deer in permit area 603, a captive deer facility in Winona County found positive, and additional positive deer in Wisconsin and Iowa. Deer permit area 603 has mandatory surveillance throughout all deer seasons. Hunters should consult the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd for more complete information.
Proactive surveillance and precautionary testing for disease is a proven strategy that allows the DNR to manage CWD by finding it early and reacting quickly and aggressively to control it. These actions, which were taken in 2005 to successfully combat bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota deer and in 2010 to eliminate a CWD infection in wild deer near Pine Island, provide the best opportunity to eliminate disease spread.
“Without precautionary testing, early detection would not be possible,” Cornicelli said. “Without early detection, there’s nothing to stop CWD from becoming established at a relatively high prevalence and across a large geographic area. At that point, there is no known way to control it once established.”
Additional details on mandatory testing will be released throughout the fall as firearms deer season approaches. Complete information about mandatory CWD testing this fall, sampling station locations and a related precautionary feeding ban are available now on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd.