The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released a series of changes ahead of the 2020 firearms deer hunting season.
The upcoming season is being affected by the state's ongoing battle with chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is fatal to deer, as well as challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of the contact issues created by COVID-19, the DNR says that sampling for CWD will be voluntary this year, with hunters submitting samples at "unstaffed" stations to allow for social distancing.
Those hunting in disease management zones, control zones, and surveillance area can drop off the head of a deer aged 1-year or older at these stations, and are encouraged to do so to help the DNR monitor the spread of CWD.
There are now seven management, control, or surveillance areas in Minnesota where sampling is encouraged, four of which are new this year after new cases of CWD were detected in wild or farmer deer.
They are as follows:
- South-metro CWD management zone—created after detection of CWD in a wild deer in Dakota County. This zone is named deer permit area 605.
- South-metro surveillance area—created after detection of CWD in a wild deer in Dakota County. The area is permit areas 292, 293, 338, 341 and 701.
- East-central surveillance area—created after detection of CWD in a deer farm in Pine County. This area is portions of permit areas 157, 225, 235, 236 and all of permit area 159.
- West-central surveillance area—created after detection of CWD in a deer farm in Douglas County. The area is permit areas 213 and 273.
- North-central management zone – same as last year, covering permit area 604.
- Southeast management zone – same as last year, covering permit areas 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655
- Southeast control zone – same as last year, covering permit areas 255, 343 and 344).
There are also mandatory carcass movement restrictions in place in all management and control zones, which doesn't allow for deer carcasses to be removed from the zones until a "not detected" test result for CWD is received.
"If hunters do not submit their deer for sampling, they must debone and quarter their deer, in order to transport their harvest," the DNR says.
There are no carcass movement restrictions in place in surveillance areas.
“While sampling is voluntary, we want to underscore that our carcass movement restrictions remain mandatory in disease management zones,” says DNR wildlife health program supervisor Michelle Carstensen.
"This action is critical in keeping the disease from spreading farther in the state."
The DNR in July expanded its ban on deer feeding and attractants to include Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Rice, Scott and Washington counties. You can find a full list of counties with feeding bans here.