CWD concerns

A deer runs through a soybean field south of Mankato. The DNR is taking several steps as the firearms deer season begins to monitor and limit chronic wasting disease or CWD.

Testing of more than 2,000 deer killed during youth hunts and by archers has turned up two new cases of chronic wasting disease in southeast Minnesota and no new cases in north central Minnesota — both areas that previously had CWD cases.

“It’s good news that we have nothing new in the north central,” said Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources. She said it wasn’t a big surprise more were found in the southeast, which has been the main area for CWD cases in recent years.

She and Barbara Keller, big game program leader with the DNR, gave reporters an update on the state’s approach to the disease, which kills deer, spreads easily but has not been found to affect humans.

The DNR has made progress on finding a new hauler to transport Dumpsters that hunters in affected areas are to put deer heads and organs in.

The agency had Dumpsters placed at several sites but last week Waste Management backed out of hauling them to landfills, saying it feared potential legal liability. A new hauler has submitted a bid to do the work.

The hope is that by removing potentially contaminated deer parts, the disease can be better contained. Hunters are to place the head and spinal column in the Dumpsters after quartering or butchering.

Keller said there will be mandatory sampling of deer killed in the 600 series of permit areas in southeast Minnesota and in the Merrifield area, near Brainerd, where a diseased deer was identified. Hunters in those areas are required to register their deer and then take them to a sampling station where DNR staff will remove lymph nodes from the neck of the deer to send in for testing. Test results come back in three to 10 business days depending on the lab doing the test.

She said hunters outside the mandatory sampling areas who still want to test their deer can go to the DNR website to find information on how to do it.

Those in the 600 series and Merrifield areas are also prohibited from taking a whole deer carcass out of the area. They must remove the head and either quarter it or debone it before taking the meat outside of the restricted areas.

Keller said the DNR is taking a three-prong approach to CWD. They are liberalizing bag limits on deer in affected areas in an attempt to reduce deer densities. They are banning people from feeding deer or using attractants in some areas to try to keep deer from congregating and coming into contact with each other. And they are restricting the movement of carcasses in some areas.

Carstensen said CWD is still relatively rare in Minnesota and they hope to keep it that way. Wisconsin and some other states have widespread occurrences of the disease.

“Acting now is our best chance to keep CWD contained and maintain our wild deer population’s health long term,” she said.

Last session Minnesota lawmakers approved $1.87 million allocated from the state’s general tax fund and $2.85 million from the state’s Game and Fish Fund to the DNR’s CWD management efforts.

Test results, including locations of confirmed positive test results and statistics, are available on the DNR website at

For more information on chronic wasting disease, including maps of CWD surveillance areas, frequently asked questions and hunter information, visit

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