Two deer farms in Minnesota received animals from a Wisconsin farm later found to be a hotbed for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) revealed the discovery Tuesday, referencing a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that said Maple Hill Farms had shipped 387 deer to multiple states, including Minnesota, since July 2016. In August of this year, investigators confirmed the fatal disease at Maple Hill, sparking a race to identify and trace deer that had come from the Taylor County, Wisconsin, facility.

The DNR said it learned Monday of two Minnesota farms that received deer from Maple Hill Farms, which DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen called "deeply concerning." 

Since first being discovered in a captive animal in Minnesota in 2002, CWD cases in Minnesota have slowly grown. Cases in the state remain rare, but wildlife authorities remain troubled by the disease, which has no known cure and can be fatal to deer, moose and elk. 

The DNR provided details about the two Minnesota operations that received deer from Maple Hill Farms:

  • Two deer went to a now-defunct Stillwater farm in 2016, and were then transferred to a farm in Grand Meadow (also out of business). In 2019, the deer were shipped back to Wisconsin, and the DNR is trying to figure out if they have been tested, and whether they are still alive/
  • Three deer were sent to a farm in Clear Lake in fall of 2017. Two of them were killed in early 2021, and CWD tests came back negative. The owner will allow the third deer to be tested once they've been paid, the DNR said, and the entire herd is currently quarantined.

The DNR does not know if the five deer in question were infected with CWD at the time they were transferred to Minnesota. 

Strommen said the agency is "actively considering management responses to this latest threat to Minnesota’s wild deer.”

This year's hunting season will  come with mandatory CWD testing for deer harvested in certain areas of the state, as the DNR looks to stay on top of the growing threat to the animals. The agency also issued a temporary ban on deer movement in the state after CWD was discovered on a deer farm in Beltrami County. 

The move came just days after the agency found CWD-positive deer carcasses had been dumped outside of a quarantine area.

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