Deer on southeastern MN deer farm tests positive for CWD

Hunters are encouraged to drop off samples of the deer they kill to be tested for the deadly disease.
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A two-and-a-half-year-old white-tailed doe on a deer farm in Houston County has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The deer tested positive for CWD, a neurological disease that's fatal to deer and elk, after it died. The herd has been quarantined and the owner is cooperating with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. 

“We’re compiling the last five years of the herd history and movements as required by federal program standards, and we’re working with the USDA to appraise and request federal indemnity for this herd,” Board of Animal Health Assistant Director Dr. Linda Glaser said in a news release. “There are 38 adults and 11 fawns in the herd and we plan to work with the producer to develop a depopulation and testing plan.”

As part of the state's efforts to reduce the impact of CWD on wild deer in Minnesota, all farmed deers that die or are killed must be tested for the disease. 

The board says the Houston County deer farm, which is located in an established CWD endemic area, added a double fence to its enclosure in 2017. In the past five years, the farm has only imported animals from two Minnesota herds and has only exported animals to one place in Wisconsin.

The board establishes endemic areas 15 miles around all confirmed CWD cases in the wild. The one in southeastern Minnesota, which includes this Houston County deer farm, was established in late 2018. 

Any deer farm that's within the endemic area is restricted from moving deer to other areas of the state until the farm owner can prove the herd is kept in a way that prevents farmed deer and wild deer from commingling. 

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is testing wild deer that were killed by hunters in Houston County as part of the department's CWD surveillance. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is voluntary this year

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Hunters who kill a deer in disease management zones, control zones and surveillance areas are encouraged to drop off the head of a deer aged 1-year or older at "unstaffed" stations. The DNR will then test the deer for CWD to help it monitor the spread of the disease. 

“We typically heighten our efforts to collect samples from wild deer in areas that surround CWD-infected cervid farms,” said Dr. Michelle Carstensen, Wildlife Health Program supervisor. “Even though sampling is voluntary this year, the more hunters submit samples, the better we can understand how CWD is spreading in the area. This new detection is within our CWD management zone and intensifies our need for Houston County deer hunters to submit samples.”

According to the Board of Animal Health, in an area within 10 miles of this new CWD-positive farm, three deer out of about 2,260 tested positive for CWD last year. (Find other CWD test results here.)

More on CWD

CWD is found globally and in about half of the states in the United States. Although it's still relatively rare in Minnesota, it is a concern because there is no cure, 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. 

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