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Serving: MN

State plans more than 22,000 CWD samples this hunting season

Michael-Tatman/Getty Images Young white-tailed deer buck in field
READY FOR SEASON: The Minnesota DNR is ready to sample more than 22,000 deer for chronic wasting disease this hunting season.
The DNR and Board of Animal Health provided CWD updates Oct. 27 to the Minnesota House.

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Animal Health appeared before the state House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy committee Oct. 27 to provide an update on chronic wasting disease measures.

Kelly Straker, DNR wildlife section manager, said the agency expects to take 22,500 samples this fall from harvested deer and test them for CWD. The estimated cost of the mandatory sampling program is around $2 million, she said. The agency estimates that nearly half a million hunters are preparing for the firearms deer season that opens in Minnesota on Saturday (Nov. 6).

A total of 87 CWD stations — staffed, self-service and extraction — will be made available, Straker said. In CWD management and control zones, about a third of the stations will be voluntary self-service stations with barrels. The remaining stations will be staffed by DNR and students during the mandatory weekends.

Straker noted that the agency has hired extra staff to handle CWD sampling. A total of 239 DNR staff — 242 students plus volunteers — will be ready to assist hunters. Mandatory testing applies to opening weekend of the statewide A season Nov.6-7 and opening weekend of the southeast-only B season Nov. 20-21.

After field-dressing deer, hunters in CWD zones must submit deer for sampling. At staff sites, DNR staff will remove lymph nodes and submit the tissue for laboratory testing. At self-service sampling stations, hunters can drop off deer heads. DNR staff will retrieve the heads, remove the lymph nodes and submit the tissue for sampling.

Hunters must register their deer within 48 hours of harvest and before the deer is processed. Registration can be by phone, on the internet or in person. Harvest registration will not be available at CWD sampling stations.

Following the mandatory opening weekend of firearm sampling, interested hunters can still get their deer tested at no cost, either by appointment at DNR Wildlife offices in Grand Rapids, Bemidji or Park Rapids, or at self-service stations in Blackduck and Tenstrike. The self-service stations will be monitored two to three times a week by DNR staff. Dumpsters will be available at 32 sites in CWD management and control zones only, she noted. Landfills also are an option in surveillance zones.

Straker reminded the committee that deer feeding and attractant bans are in place in specific counties. Deer feeding is banned in Carlton, Chisago, Douglas, Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Pope and Stearns counties. Deer feeding and attractants bans are in place in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Olmsted, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Steele, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Washington and Winona counties.

“There likely will be an expansion of the deer feeding ban to Beltrami County,” she said, “but if accepted, that would not go into effect until Dec. 31.” The expanded feeding ban would add another 16 counties in northeastern Minnesota if accepted.

DNR adds staff to help inspect deer farms

Straker also gave an update on work between the DNR and BAH. The DNR has added 12 staff to help with on-farm inspections with BAH of white-tailed deer farms. Their goal is to inspect 40 farms by Dec. 17. The agency also will have access to farmed deer data from BAH.

Committee member state Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) questioned how fast CWD test results would be available to hunters, noting the challenges of keeping meat safe for consumption.

Straker said it would take a week for test results to be available from the diagnostic lab. Knowing that, the agency is encouraging hunters to plan carcass handling. One idea Straker suggested was that hunters could quarter carcasses and keep meat in coolers.

“We realize this is a big change for hunters this year,” she said. “We are at the mercy of labs on turnaround, and recommend that you do not consume deer meat until you get test results.”

Linda Glaser, BAH assistant director, noted the increased involvement of DNR staff in farmed deer inspections and that the shared database would be operational by the end of November.

A few House committee members questioned BAH about its communication practices with DNR and tribal groups in the state. In September, DNR learned about CWD-positive deer from Wisconsin coming into the state through a news report. BAH did not tell DNR about it, and admitted oversight on that. And regarding routine CWD communication with tribes, BAH indicated it would look further into the matter.

To learn more about mandatory CWD testing this hunting season and more, visit dnr.state.mn.us/cwd/index.html.

 

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