Tests show no CWD spread

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tests found no chronic wasting disease in more than 11,000 deer shot by hunters in north-central, central and southeastern Minnesota this fall, the Department of Natural Resources said Monday, giving wildlife managers some confidence that the fatal brain disease has not spread beyond a small pocket in the southeastern corner of the state.

“That’s good news,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s wildlife research manager.

The DNR ordered the precautionary, mandatory testing in parts of north-central and central Minnesota this fall after the disease was found in captive deer on farms in Crow Wing and Meeker counties. The negative findings in those regions will allow the DNR to scale back the surveillance areas next fall to ones closer to the affected farms.

However, the DNR plans to add a fourth surveillance area for next fall in Winona County, where chronic wasting disease has been found in two captive deer on one farm in recent weeks. Cornicelli said the boundaries and other details haven’t been determined.

This fall’s testing also found no spread of the disease beyond the state’s designated disease-management zone around Preston in southeastern Minnesota, the only part of the state where the disease has been found in wild deer since 2010.

Tests from that zone found six confirmed cases and one suspected case this fall, but that’s down from 11 cases found there last season when the disease reappeared in the state.

Because three of those new cases were found outside the core area where earlier cases showed up, the DNR plans to expand the boundaries for a special late-season deer hunt there next month. The goal is to prevent the disease from becoming established there by bringing down the local deer population as low as possible. The hunt will include Forestville State Park. DNR staffers will take mandatory lymph node samples from deer shot during the hunt.

Chronic wasting disease affects deer, elk and moose. Scientists believe it spreads from animal to animal via proteins called prions that can persist in the environment for years. It’s not known to infect people, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hunters should strongly consider having their animals tested from areas where the disease is present. And authorities advise against eating meat from infected animals.

COMMENTS