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The Minnesota DNR says it's investigating what could be the first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer in the Bemidji area.

The DNR says a male white-tailed deer harvested on the opening weekend of firearms season in deer permit area 184, about 10 miles south of Bemidji, has signs of a CWD infection following preliminary test results.

CWD is fatal to deer, and its spread in Minnesota in recent years has resulted in restrictions on hunting, farming, and deer movement across parts of the state since it was first confirmed, though southeastern Minnesota has seen most of the cases so far.

Area 184 was among the areas under surveillance for CWD, but it was not among the 11 areas under "management" for the disease.

"While disappointing, this find is not completely unexpected,” said Kelly Straka, wildlife section manager for the DNR. "We’re announcing this preliminary CWD positive result to encourage hunters in the Bemidji area to have their deer tested."

The DNR is making self-service sampling stations available for hunters in deer permit area 184. If the CWD case is confirmed, it will take "additional management actions" in the area, which could include a late special season hunt and "targeted culling."

Deer sampling is mandatory in area 184, and of 1,200 sampled from that area so far, with the results received for 700 of them. Of those, there is one preliminary positive case.

The DNR says 168 cases of CWD have been documented in Minnesota since 2002, most of them in southeastern Minnesota.

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