State faces deadly nemesis in chronic wasting disease

FAIRMONT — With deer season having recently opened, many hunters already have gotten away to enjoy some time outdoors.

As they look to share their beloved sport with friends and family, there are many conditions, from weather to equipment readiness and state laws, of which to be aware. One of those conditions is the health of their prey.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently released a newsletter detailing the effects and treatment of chronic wasting disease in deer. Chad August of the Windom office of the DNR explained how the disease affects deer.

“It’s a prion, and it can be transmitted through soil, any bodily fluids such as urine or mouth to mouth,” he said. “It’s always fatal; they’ve never been able to find any reports or evidence of deer surviving CWD.

“It takes a while to start showing signs, but the first sign is that they’re weak and lethargic. They usually have kind of a head-down position when they’re standing up, they start to lose weight and just overall look sickly.”

August noted the disease has yet to affect the Fairmont area.

“It hasn’t impacted us yet for the southwest,” he said. “In the southeast portion of the state, it’s becoming what we call endemic. That means a certain percentage of the population has it and now it’s just a matter of controlling it instead of preventing it, and there’s no way of being able to eliminate it.

“There’s monitoring being done in central Minnesota, where one deer with CWD was found within a mile of a game farm. So we’re doing monitoring for three years to see if it’s found in any other deer in the population, but we haven’t found any out in the wild. Any time we find a positive deer farm with elk, white-tailed deer or mule deer with CWD, the DNR takes a proactive approach.”

August said that in the southeast portion of the state steps are being taken to control the disease.

“Controlling it means increasing the number of deer that can be harvested to try to really suppress the population,” he said. “Particularly that means targeting males because they’ve found that males transmit it a lot more often. Males have a lot more contact with other deer during the rut and they move around a lot more. So that means longer deer seasons, and a larger number of tags. We just want to try and decrease the population.”

Since CWD was first detected in Minnesota in 2002, the DNR has tested more than 72,000 wild deer in the state. Fifty-four have tested positive for CWD. Test results, including locations of confirmed positive test results and statistics, are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck


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