In an effort to control the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the core area, the DNR has scheduled special late season hunts for December 21-23 and December 28-30. These hunts will be in permit areas 603, 347, and 348 plus portions of deer permit areas 343 and 345 that are south of Interstate 90. The focus will be on the primary core area between Preston and Lanesboro, also including Forestville State Park and Bucksnort areas.
All deer must be CWD tested. A deer can not be removed from the hunt boundary until a not-detected result is received. Test results will be received in three to five days. Check your test results on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/cwd. Residents and non-residents may participate; landowner permission is required on private land. There is no bag limit and the antler point restriction regulation is not in effect.
An unlimited number of disease management permits can be purchased online or wherever DNR hunting licenses are sold.
All harvested deer must be presented at a registration station within 24 hours of harvest or by 10 a.m. Monday following the hunt. Registration stations include Magnum Sports in Chatfield, Preston Forestry Office and Forestville State Park, Preston; and Pam’s Corner Convenience at intersection of Minnesota Highways 16 and 43.
Landowner shooting permits for January 1-13 will be issued to landowners who want to remove deer from their properties. Permits will be mailed to all landowners in the late hunt area who own 20 acres or more. Landowners can designate shooters.
CWD was first discovered in wild deer in 2010. Prions or mis-shapen proteins are the abnormal proteins that cause the disease. There is no vaccine at this time or treatment for the disease. The disease is passed through direct contact with infected deer’s saliva, urine, blood, feces, antler velvet or carcass. Soil can become contaminated and be a source for the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend not eating meat from a positive animal. However, there is no evidence that humans or cattle can contract CWD.
Deer with CWD can appear healthy. When the disease has progressed sufficiently, clinical signs may be present including weight loss to the point of emaciation, excessive drooling, loss of fear of humans, loss of body control/tremors or staggering, and drooping of the head and ears. It is important to report sick deer to either a local conservation officer or DNR Wildlife Office. CWD is a progressive brain disease and is 100% fatal. Incubation of the disease takes from 1.5 to three years from exposure to the development of clinical signs. Bucks are three times more likely to have the disease. There is no genetic immunity to the disease.
Drs. Michelle Carstensen and Lou Cornicelli presented information about CWD and the special hunts at a meeting in Preston on December 18.
Efforts to control the disease in the Preston/Lanesboro or core area in the last couple of years has not eliminated CWD. All confirmed cases outside of the core area have been adult males with the exception of one female near Bucksnort. The goal is to reduce the disease and minimize the spread of the disease.
There is no attempt to eradicate deer. There is a ban on recreational deer feeding in area counties.
CWD prevalence is still relatively low, but has increased from 2017 to 2018. USDA Wildlife Services will contract to conduct culling in high risk core areas from about January 14 through March 15.
The public can sign up to receive donated venison from the special hunts, landowner shooting permit hunting, and deer removal efforts later in the winter. Only deer with non-detected test results will be released to the donation program which is offered in partnership with Bluffland Whitetails Association. Venison will be available either as a whole carcass or boxed quarters and backstraps.
Cooperation between hunters and landowners is needed to successfully fight CWD.
The crowd asked numerous questions after the presentation. There were several questions concerning farmed deer and elk. The DNR regulates wild deer. Questions about farmed/captive animals were directed to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. There are about 390 farmed herds in the state.
Why are food plots legal, but one can’t feed the deer? Food plots don’t require deer to congregate in a specific area. Also, food plots are impossible to regulate. Is an unharvested corn field a food plot?
A question was asked if reducing deer density makes bucks travel more. One can’t really answer this question. Males spread disease across the landscape due to their own behavior and disease is maintained by females in core areas.
The DNR has no goal as to the number of deer to be killed. The goal is to limit the spread of the disease. There are over 30 deer per square mile.
There was a question about the possibility of birds spreading the disease. There has been some study and it isn’t believed that they spread the disease.
What is the Board of Animal Health response to a disease positive captive animal? All farms in a 10-mile radius will be quarantined. What is the consequence for escaped captive animals? The owner gets notice of a violation. Fences are inspected. All of these farms must be registered by law.
Cornicelli declared, “We are not effecting deer densities.” He admitted densities may be reduced in a specific small acreage. Carstensen explained wthat they want to have an effect on populations in the core areas, so as to stop the disease from spreading outward.
There was a question about contamination of the soil with prions. The environment at this point is not very contaminated with the current prevalence of the disease.
Deer movement studies are being done. Radio collars have been placed on some deer.
Recently a diseased deer was found in Houston County. Why is that area not included in the special hunts? This deer was found about the same time the special hunt areas were published. The boundaries of the hunts could not be expanded at that time. When a positive deer is found, a 10-mile circle around the location bound by the nearest best road is produced.
Is the plan to keep the deer population as low as possible? Carstensen described the initial CWD response plan: try to minimize effects elsewhere, keep from spreading, control carcass movements, and contain the disease. The disease, if not controlled, will have a long term effect on deer populations. A new plan will be detailed on the website around the first of the new year.
For more information visit www.mndnr.gov/cwd or call the DNR information center at (888) 646-6367.