A daylong public meeting today in Nicollet is the latest chance for people to learn about and give input on deer management in the state.
The Department of Natural Resources has been hosting the open house sessions around the state, both to let deer hunters and others know how the DNR tries to manage the deer herd and to build better communications and relations with the public.
Such efforts are increasingly important in light of chronic wasting disease in deer and a new scientific report that sheds light on startling facts about CWD and the potential it could transfer to humans.
New DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen deserves credit for working to increase public input and to try and reduce tensions that sometimes arise between the agency, the public and lawmakers.
Strommen is well-suited to handle a high-profile job that often puts her in the hot seat. She was assistant commissioner for several years under former head Tom Landwehr and those who’ve worked with her say she is approachable, a lifelong outdoors enthusiast and well aware of the agency’s sometimes uneasy relationship with the public.
The DNR has a deer advisory committee to provide recommendations on managing Minnesota’s deer herd and the agency has been aggressive in trying to limit CWD. States that haven’t taken such steps have seen CWD cases spread dramatically.
The neurodegenerative disease, which attacks deer, elk and moose, has increasingly been seen as an emergency issue in many states and there are bills being considered at the national level to combat it.
A new study in a scientific journal last week titled “Chronic Wasting Disease in Cervids: Implications for Prion Transmission to Humans and Other Animal Species” gives new urgency to the fight.
The study detailed how fast CWD has spread — from five states in 2000 to 26 states today.
And the study suggests the horrifying possibility of CWD spreading to humans.
“Available data suggest that the risk of CWD transmission to humans is low but not zero,” the authors write. “However, evidence also suggests the species barrier is not static. Factors such as different CWD strains emerging, cervid species, and polymorphic variations can play key roles in interspecies transmission.”
They say that as more animals become infected, the disease will continue to evolve, spread faster and potentially create strains that could infect humans.
The report is something that every deer hunter and others should Google and read.
The disease should lead people to stop feeding deer, which promotes the congregation of animals. And deer hunters should know the best practices for carcass disposal. While the DNR in recent years has required hunters to take deer to a station for a sample to be tested for CWD in certain areas of the state, hunters everywhere should consider having their deer voluntarily tested.
What’s urgently needed is more funding from the federal and state government and to set up coordinated efforts among states to slow the spread of this nightmarish disease.
The DNR deer-related open house is 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. today at the Nicollet wildlife office, 501 9th St. in Nicollet.