Managing Chronic Wasting Disease

Testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is being conducted in two areas of Minnesota this fall during deer season. Testing is mandatory in the CWD management zone (deer permit area 602) and carcasses cannot be removed from the area until hunters receive a negative CWD test result. Testing in the north metro (part of deer permit areas 601 and 236) is a precautionary measure after CWD was discovered in a captive cervid farm in North Oaks in 2012.

Carcass import from other states/provinces:

In addition to the DNR’s disease surveillance and management within the state, importation of cervidae (moose, elk, deer, caribou) carcasses from CWD endemic areas is also restricted. Carcasses may not be imported into the state from a CWD endemic area except for cut and wrapped meat, quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, hides, teeth, finished taxidermy mounts, and antlers attached to skull caps that are cleaned of all brain tissue. If you plan to hunt outside the state, consult the Minnesota Board of Animal Health website for a map of areas from which import is restricted.
 

Southeastern Minnesota

 

North Metro

 

Southeast CWD Test Results

Enter Minnesota DNR Number with no dashes:
OR
Carcass Tag Number:
 

Southeast Registration Stations

Kasson

• Hardware Hank, 11 4th St. SE map

Pine Island

• Greenway Co-op,100 North Main St. map

Rochester

• Archery Headquarters, 3440 Northern Valley Place map
• Gander Mountain, 3470 55th St. NW map

Zumbro Falls

• Neptune Bar and Grill, Main Street map


Registration stations listed above will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the 23-day firearm deer season. During archery and muzzleloader, head collection boxes are available at the stations listed above.

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No CWD found since initial 2010 discovery

CWD Management Zone - Deer Permit Area 602
CWD Management Zone

Extensive sampling of nearly 1,200 deer during fall 2012 in southeastern Minnesota did not detect a single case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Test results lend confidence that DNR caught the disease on the front end of the infection. Since the discovery of CWD in a wild white-tailed deer in fall 2010, DNR has sampled more than 4,000 adult deer in deer permit area 602 without finding another positive.

CWD-postive captive animal triggers north metro testing

In mid- 2012, a captive European red deer (Cervus elaphus) was found infected with CWD in a herd of approximately 400 animals in North Oaks, MN. This marked the first time CWD was discovered in this species. In response, Minnesota DNR collected samples from 154 deer within a 10-mile radius of the farm to test for CWD.

Sample collections included 22 vehicle-killed deer, 69 archery-killed deer from special metro hunts, and 63 deer from a city-contracted sharpshooting effort within North Oaks. All samples were negative for CWD. Minnesota DNR plans to continue surveillance in the north metro in 2013.

Wisconsin CWD discovery triggered 2012 testing

Due to the discovery of CWD near Shell Lake, Wisconsin in 2011, the Minnesota DNR conducted CWD surveillance in deer permit areas 159, 183 and 225, along the Wisconsin border in 2012.

Nearly 1,100 samples were collected and all tested negative for CWD. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources tested 1,074 deer within 10 miles of Spooner, Wis., in fall 2012 and did not find any additional CWD-positive deer.

Minnesota DNR is not collecting any additional samples for CWD testing in east-central surveillance area in 2013.

Feeding ban remains in effect

A deer feeding ban remains in effect in Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted, and Wabasha counties for the foreseeable future. Don't feed deerThe ban covers all of Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties.

The ban will reduce the potential for the disease to spread from deer-to-deer by reducing the number of deer concentration sites. The disease can spread from one deer to another following nose-to-nose contact, contact with saliva or other body fluids. By eliminating deer feeding sites we are reducing the potential for the disease to spread.


Deer management strategy

Now that CWD has been discovered in the wild deer population, DNR will manage deer differently for the next three years at a minimum. The essence of management in this area includes:

  • Creation of a new CWD management zone, which is designated deer permit area 602;
  • Expansion of hunting opportunities and liberalization of bag limits to lower deer densities;
  • Mandatory testing of deer older than one year taken in this area for all seasons (archery, firearm, muzzleloader); and
  • Hunters will not be allowed to remove deer carcasses from the CWD management zone until a CWD-negative test result is reported.

Southeastern sampling

 

North Metro sampling

 

East-central sampling

What is CWD?

CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) naturally occurs in North American deer, moose and Rocky Mountain Elk. It belongs to a group of infectious diseases known as "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" (TSEs).

It is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion which affects the animal's brain and is invariably fatal. Usually, months to years pass from the time an animal is infected to when it shows signs of the disease.

The disease is found in 14 other states and two Canadian provinces, including the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Typical signs of the disease include drooping head or ears, poor body condition, tremors, stumbling, increased salivation, difficulty swallowing, or excessive thirst or urination.

The diagram to the right illustrates the most common sites where prions accumulate in infected cervids.

CWD Diagram


When was CWD discovered?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that an adult female deer harvested during the 2010 hunting season has been diagnosed with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a brain and nervous system disorder found in deer, elk and moose. This is disappointing news but the DNR is well prepared to address it.

The discovery occurred the week of Jan. 10, 2011, during laboratory analysis of more than 500 samples (lymph nodes) taken from hunter-harvested deer taken within a 20-mile radius of Pine Island in southeastern Minnesota. Initial screening of all other samples is complete. The DNR collects and evaluates lymph nodes because CWD can be detected through microscopic analysis.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the University of Minnesota's preliminary diagnosis of the single adult female white-tailed deer on Jan. 25, 2011.

What is the practical implication of this finding?

If the preliminary finding is confirmed by NVSL, this will mark the first time CWD has been found in wild deer in Minnesota. Though the disease has been detected in Minnesota on four previous occasions since 2002, all of the instances involved "captive cervids", meaning domestic deer or elk confined to a fenced-in commercial operation.

How did the disease enter Minnesota's wild deer herd?

At this point, no one knows. In fact, we may never know. What is known is that the "presumed positive" deer was harvested about three miles southwest of a former domestic elk farm near Pine Island. The farm's elk herd was depopulated after a seven-year-old female elk tested positive for CWD in January 2009. Three additional elk were found to be infected with CWD during the depopulation effort. The closest wild deer with CWD in Wisconsin is 150 miles from the location this CWD-suspect deer was harvested in Minnesota.

What other states have CWD?

CWD is found in wild deer, elk or moose in 14 other states and two Canadian provinces, including the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota. For specifics, visit the CWD Alliance Website.

 

A map and list of states and counties with endemic areas where exportation of cervids is restricted is available from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health by clicking the Cervidae (Deer, Elk, Moose, Caribou, Reindeer) link.

What has DNR done to manage CWD?

The DNR has been actively on the lookout for CWD since 2002, when the disease was first found in a domestic elk farm in central Minnesota. An important management strategy for this disease is early detection. Since 2002, the DNR has tested more than 40,000 hunter-harvested, car-killed and targeted sick deer, along with 60 elk and 90 moose. Until now, laboratory analysis had never found a wild deer "presumed positive" for CWD.

CWD has been confirmed, what is DNR doing now?

DNR has implemented its CWD response plan. The critical first step was to identify the number and current distribution of deer in the Pine Island area. This was done using an aerial survey. Once that data was compiled, sampling to collect additional lymph nodes for testing was conducted during Winter 2011.

Working with landowners and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sharpshooters, DNR sampled 752 yearling or older deer and 428 fawns. Each was tested for CWD and all results were negative. Deer sampled were taken from within roughly a five-mile radius of where the infected deer was harvested in Fall 2010.

DNR also implemented a deer feeding ban in a four-county area of southeastern Minnesota, has restricted carcass movement out of the area and will sample all hunter harvested deer for CWD during this fall's hunting seasons.

Do you believe other deer in southeastern Minnesota have CWD?

 

Deer infected with CWD
A deer infected with CWD

That's possible but it's premature to speculate. The only way to know if other deer have CWD is to continue doing surveillance. Collection of additional samples this winter will be done in a highly targeted way and only with permission of cooperating landowners.

If I harvested a deer from that area, should I be concerned about eating the venison?

Based on the fact that only one deer has tested positive for CWD among more than 500 samples, the rate of occurrence is likely low. Still, people with venison in their freezer from this area should know the following:

  1. The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have found no scientific evidence that CWD is transferable from animals to humans; and
  2. The CDC advises against eating animals known to have CWD.

So, people with venison in their freezer that was harvested from this area will need to make decisions based on the information above. The Minnesota Department of Health – not the DNR – provides guidance to citizens on food consumption issues.

What else can you tell me about CWD?

CWD causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Though many observers try to compare CWD with "mad cow disease", the diseases are distinctly different.

What causes CWD?

The disease agent is a prion, an abnormal form of cellular protein that is most commonly found in the central nervous system and in lymphoid tissue. The prion "infects" the host animal by promoting conversion of normal cellular protein to the abnormal form.

Where and how did CWD originate?

The origin of CWD is unknown, and it may never be possible to definitively determine how or when CWD arose. It was first recognized as a syndrome in captive mule deer held in wildlife research facilities in Colorado in the late 1960s, but it was not identified as a TSE until the 1970s. Computer modeling suggests the disease may have been present in free-ranging populations of mule deer for more than 40 years.

How does CWD spread?

It is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted. The infectious agent may be passed in feces, urine or saliva. Transmission is thought to be lateral (from animal to animal). Although maternal transmission (from mother to fetus) may occur, it appears to be relatively unimportant in maintaining epidemics.

Because CWD infectious agents are extremely resistant in the environment, transmission may be both direct and indirect. Concentrating deer and elk in captivity or by artificial feeding probably increases the likelihood of both direct and indirect transmission between individuals. Contaminated pastures appear to have served as sources of infection in some CWD epidemics. The apparent persistence of the infectious agents in contaminated environments represents a significant obstacle to eradication of CWD from either captive or free-ranging cervid populations.

The movement of live animals is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease into new areas. Natural movements of wild deer and elk contribute to the spread of the disease, and human-aided transportation of both captive and wild animals greatly exacerbates this risk factor.

Why should Minnesotans be concerned about CWD?

CWD poses serious problems for wildlife managers, and the implications for free-ranging deer, elk and moose are significant:

  • Ongoing surveillance programs are expensive and draw resources from other wildlife management needs;
  • Impacts of CWD on population dynamics of deer and elk are presently unknown. Computer modeling suggests that CWD could substantially reduce infected cervid populations by lowering adult survival rates and destabilizing long-term population dynamics;
  • Where it occurs, CWD may alter the management of wild deer and elk populations, and it has already begun to do so; and
  • Ultimately, public and agency concerns and perceptions about human health risks associated with all TSE's may erode hunters' confidence and their willingness to hunt in areas where CWD occurs.

Deer feeding ban in four southeastern Minnesota counties

Map of southeastern Minnesota deer feeding ban areaA deer feeding ban covering Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties became effective Monday, Feb. 14.

The ban will reduce the potential for the disease to spread from deer-to-deer by reducing the number of deer concentration sites. The disease can spread from one deer to another following nose-to-nose contact, contact with saliva or other body fluids. By eliminating deer feeding sites we are reducing the potential for the disease to spread.

The emergency rule makes it illegal to place or have out food capable of attracting wild deer. Those who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that precludes deer access or place the food at least six feet above ground level.

Food placed as a result of normal agricultural practices is generally exempted from this rule; however, cattle operators are advised to take steps that minimize contact between deer and cattle.

Please download the rule pdf to view the specific language. Once the rule goes into effect, official notice can be found here.

Methods and instructions to help landowners prevent wild deer from feeding on their property can be found here.

Field Dressing

Improper handling of the deer can contaminate the carcass with potentially harmful bacteria and compromise food safety and quality. By implementing a few precautionary measures during field dressing, the hunter can help ensure the final product is fit to consume.


  1. Instructional Photo No. 1Place the deer on its back and spread the hind legs. Support the carcass in this position by using rocks or sticks. All hunters should wear gloves!


  2. Instructional Photo No. 2Cut along the midline of the belly from the breastbone to the anus. Avoid cutting into the intestines and stomach by turning the knife blade up during the cutting process. Slowly remove the skin from the incision.


  3. Instructional Photo No. 3Cut through the sternum to open the body cavity surrounding the lungs and heart.


  4. Instructional Photo No. 4After opening the body cavity, reach inside and begin cutting the diaphragm, lungs, and heart away from the body wall. Remove the internal organs all in one step. Take care to avoid puncturing or tearing the stomach and intestines during this process.


  5. Instructional Photo No. 5To promote cooling of the carcass, place a stick between the ribs to prop open the body cavity and allow airflow.

Check your results

Carcass restrictions require that any deer older than one year harvested in any season (archery, firearm and muzzleloader) be tested and receive a CWD-negative test result before a hunter can remove the animal from the CWD management zone. Use the form below to check for your test results.

CWD test results are available within three business days during the firearms deer season for samples taken in deer area 602. Results for samples submitted during the archery and muzzleloader seasons will be available within five business days.

Remember, export restrictions apply to carcasses with the head and portions of the spinal column attached. Deer parts that can be moved outside the area without a test result include:

  • Meat that is boned out or cut and wrapped either commercially or privately;
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;
  • Antlers or clean skull plates with attached antlers, provided no brain tissue is attached; and
  • Finished taxidermy mounts.

 

Your MNDNR Number:
OR
Carcass Tag Number:

General Information

The Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization state that there is no scientific evidence that CWD causes human Illness; however, precautions should be taken to minimize exposure.

  • Do not shoot, handle, or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick.
  • Contact your local DNR office or the general DNR information line at 1-888-646-6367 if the animal appears sick.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer. Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
  • Bone out the meat from your animal. Don't saw through bone, and avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone). Minimize handling of brain and spinal tissue.
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
  • Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes. Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts.
  • Avoid consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.
  • If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal.

Transportation and Processing

Proper handling and refrigeration is necessary to prevent decomposition of the carcass and minimize the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. This will reduce the risk of food-borne illness due to consumption of contaminated meat.

  • Drag the deer with the back or side down to minimize contamination of the meat. If possible, drag the deer on a tarp or use a deer cart.
  • Keep the carcass cool during transport to the locker plant.
  • Transport the carcass to the locker plant as soon as possible. If the carcass cannot be taken directly to the plant after harvest, it must be stored at a temperature of less than 41 degrees F.
  • Rinse the carcass with cold water prior to storage to remove debris and bacterial contamination.
  • When transporting the deer in a vehicle, pack the body cavity with ice to promote additional cooling.
  • Allow for adequate air circulation around the carcass and keep it out of direct sunlight and warm temperatures during transportation and storage.
Download the entire Field To Fork brochure pdf

Check your results

Carcass restrictions require that any deer older than one year harvested in any season (archery, firearm and muzzleloader) be tested and receive a CWD-negative test result before a hunter can remove the animal from the CWD management zone. Use the form below to check for your test results.

CWD test results are available within three business days for samples taken in deer area 602 only. Samples taken in the other deer areas will take five to seven business days.

Remember, export restrictions and mandatory testing only apply to deer area 602 so those samples are being prioritized so results are reported first. Deer taken in the other areas can be moved throughout the state so those results will take a few extra days.

Your MNDNR Number:
OR
Carcass Tag Number:

In-person registration required in CWD Management Zone

Deer harvested in the CWD Management Zone (deer permit area 602) must register their deer in person at check stations located throughout the area.

Registration is necessary so the DNR can extract a lymph node tissue sample for CWD testing. For 2013, CWD testing will only be conducted in the CWD Management Zone; deer taken in adjacent permit areas will not be tested.

Hunters who harvest deer within the CWD management zone cannot remove the carcass from the zone until a CWD-negative test result is reported. Testing typically takes three business days to complete during the firearms season and results can be accessed by hunters online. Results for samples submitted during the archery and muzzleloader seasons will be available within five business days from when the sample is extracted, not the date of harvest.

Some deer parts can be moved outside the deer permit area 602 without a negative CWD test result. These parts include:

  • Meat that is boned out or that is cut and wrapped, either commercially or privately;
  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;
  • Antlers or clean (no brain tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached; and
  • Finished taxidermy mounts.

 

Hunters planning to eventually transport a deer out of the CWD zone should plan ahead and secure a place to store their deer while awaiting test results. Some venison processors may not take deer until a CWD test is completed.

Summary

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is an infectious neurological disease that occurs in North American deer (Odocoileus spp.), Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus), and moose (Alces alces) and belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

The disease is progressively fatal and has no known immunity, vaccine or treatment. Since 2002, more than 39,700 hunter-harvested and 600 opportunistic or targeted wild deer have been tested for CWD in Minnesota, with no positive cases identified.

This plan establishes general procedures to be followed for managing CWD if it is found in wild deer and procedures for wild deer surveillance if CWD is detected in a captive cervid facility.

If CWD is detected in wild cervids in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) has identified four primary goals of managing the disease:

  1. Determine and monitor the prevalence and geographic distribution of CWD in the affected area.
  2. Prevent or minimize further spread and new introductions of the disease.
  3. Support and conduct applied research on CWD and its epidemiology.
  4. Provide accurate and current information about CWD to the public, agency personnel, and constituent groups.

 

Download the entire response plan pdf