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CWD-positive deer found on Beltrami County farm

The DNR will conduct surveillance in the area and a deer feeding ban will be in place.

A 3-year-old doe on a Beltrami County deer farm has been confirmed to have had chronic wasting disease (CWD). 

The 77-deer herd in northern Minnesota was quarantined last fall as part of an investigation into the deadly neurological disease being detected on a farm in southeastern Minnesota, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said in a news release.

The investigation stemmed from a Houston County farm where CWD was detected in October 2020. That farm had imported the CWD-positive deer from a Winona County herd in 2019. 

Through contact tracing, the board learned the farm owner in Beltrami County had purchased 11 animals from that same Winona County farm. Because the 11 animals were considered CWD-exposed, the Beltrami County farm was quarantined in October 2020. 

The Beltrami County farm owner requested federal indemnity for their 11 CWD-exposed animals. In March of this year, the USDA appraised the herd and reported three of the 11 animals had recently died. 

Two of the deer were tested for CWD, with the aforementioned 3-year-old doe testing positive for the disease. The third deer was too decomposed to be tested. 

“This detection is disheartening,” Board of Animal Health Assistant Director Dr. Linda Glaser said in a statement. “Our investigation and tracing led us to find this positive animal.

"However, CWD continues to negatively impact Minnesota farmed cervid producers, and the tools we have to control this disease are so limited," Glaser added. "The Board will work with the USDA to get this herd depopulated to stop any spread of disease from the herd.”

As a result of the doe testing positive for CWD, the Minnesota DNR will conduct "precautionary surveillance" in the area around the farm to determine if nearby wild deer have become infected with CWD. 

The board says this surveillance will begin with the hunting season this fall and last at least three consecutive years to ensure the disease hasn't spread into the wild deer population in the area.

In addition, a deer feeding ban will be in place in Beltrami and "surrounding" counties. 

Officials are asking Beltrami County residents to report any sick wild deer they see to their local wildlife office at 218-732-8452.

More on CWD

CWD is found globally and in about half of the states in the United States, including Minnesota. 

It was first discovered in a captive animal in Minnesota in 2002 and a wild animal in 2010. As of Feb. 1, 2021, 110 wild deer have tested positive for CWD of the 90,000-plus that have been tested.

Although it's still relatively rare in Minnesota, it is a concern because there is no cure and it is fatal to deer, moose and elk, the DNR says.

The Board of Animal Health says the disease is caused by prions, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. It's most likely spread when an infected deer or elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine or other fluids or tissues.

CWD is not known to naturally occur in other animals, although eating meat from a CWD-infected deer is not advised.

The Minnesota DNR has restrictions on deer hunting in several areas to minimize the spread of CWD, including the sampling of deer that are hunted in the state's disease management zones.

Last fall, the DNR's disease management zones (areas where the disease has been detected in wild deer) were in the southeast, north-central and the south metro areas of Minnesota. The DNR's surveillance areas (were CWD was found in captive deer farms or that are adjacent to areas of known CWD risk) are in east-central, west-central and south metro areas of the state (see map below or this interactive map).

In 2020, the DNR said it confirmed CWD in 22 deer out of the 7,682 samples. However, sampling was voluntary due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wildlife officials concerned they don't have an accurate picture of CWD in Minnesota, DL Online says

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