As deer hunters gear up for the firearms season that opens statewide this weekend, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is highlighting the importance of everyone’s compliance with regulations related to chronic wasting disease in wild deer.
“CWD is relatively rare in Minnesota, and we want to keep it that way for all of the Minnesotans who want our deer population to stay healthy,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor. “This neurological disease is always fatal when contracted by deer. Acting now is our best chance to keep CWD contained and maintain our wild deer population’s health long-term.”
CWD affects the cervid family, which includes deer, elk and moose. It is spread through direct contact with an infected animal’s saliva, urine, blood, feces, antler velvet or carcass. There is no vaccine or treatment for this disease.
To limit the spread of CWD in areas where the disease has been found in wild deer, the DNR is taking a three-pronged approach: reducing deer densities; banning people from feeding deer in some areas to reduce this human-facilitated contact between deer; and restricting deer carcass movements.
Barbara Keller, the DNR’s big game program leader, said preventing the spread of the disease requires help from all Minnesotans who interact with deer.
“We’re all in this together, whether you’re a hunter who provides critical data showing us how prevalent the disease is in a specific area, or a resident who can prevent deer from congregating by not feeding them,” Keller said.
During the latest legislative 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.
“Stopping the spread of CWD is a high priority for the DNR, and we can’t accomplish that without adequate funding,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “We want to thank Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature for their leadership on this issue.”
The funding helps pay for the cost of testing deer for the disease, and staff and equipment needed for surveillance efforts.
“We’re also grateful for support from those who have helped sponsor carcass disposal locations through our Adopt-A-Dumpster program – Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Bluffland Whitetails Association, Crow Wing County and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association,” Keller said. “Having dedicated locations for hunters helps them plan ahead so they can comply with deer carcass movement restrictions.”
Keeping Minnesota’s wild deer population healthy remains the goal in the DNR’s response to chronic wasting disease. Since CWD was first detected in Minnesota in 2002, the DNR has tested more than 72,000 wild deer in the state. To date, 54 wild deer have tested positive for CWD in Minnesota. Test results, including locations of confirmed positive test results and statistics, are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck.
As part of its response plan, the DNR is monitoring for CWD in disease management zones around areas that the disease has been detected in wild deer, as well as in a CWD surveillance area where the disease was found in captive deer. The CWD management zones are located in southeastern and north-central Minnesota; the CWD surveillance area is located in central Minnesota.
For more information on chronic wasting disease, including maps of CWD surveillance areas, frequently asked questions and hunter information, visit mndnr.gov/cwd.