In an effort to stop the further spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued a temporary ban on the movement of farmed deer in the state.
The DNR issued the emergency rule on June 1 and it ends July 31. The exception to the movement ban is deer being transported to slaughter.
Related [May 25] DNR: CWD-positive deer carcasses dumped outside of quarantine area
This emergency action is in response to "concerning developments" after CWD was discovered in white-tailed deer on a farm in Beltrami County. CWD was initially detected in the herd in April and after the herd was euthanized, officials last week confirmed 12 more deer had the deadly neurological disease.
Last week, the DNR said deer remains from the Beltrami farm were found on nearby county-managed land (outside of the quarantine area) after reportedly being moved by the deer farm owner. At least one of the bones found indicated the presence of CWD-causing prions. It's unknown if the infected carcasses spread CWD to wild deer.
The CWD cases at the Beltrami County farm can be linked to an infected deer from Winona County, which prompted the Beltrami farm to be quarantined last fall. The DNR says the Minnesota Board of Animal Health also identified movements of deer to the Beltrami farm from three other herds in Minnesota (these herds are considered trace herds — no deer were moved from the Beltrami farm to other herds).
Since May 20, the Board of Animal Health has quarantined nine other herds in eight counties because of possible CWD exposure. They're located in Crow Wing, Dakota, Hennepin, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower and Stearns. Meanwhile, the Winona County farm has been quarantined since October 2020.
The DNR says this emergency rule will give it time to "examine and respond" to any connections between the Beltrami County farm and other farms that could have been exposed. The DNR issued a similar rule in 2019 after CWD was confirmed at a deer farm in Douglas County.
“This is a serious disease that poses a growing threat to Minnesota’s wild deer, and our actions must reflect that,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said. “The DNR is committed to proactively addressing CWD and doing everything we can to protect Minnesota’s white-tailed deer as part of our natural heritage.
"The CWD detections at the Beltrami County farm, its connections to other farms in the state and the additional contamination outside of the farm, pose a risk to wild deer that requires emergency action," Strommen added.
The DNR is working with the Board of Animal Health to investigate the Beltrami County farm, and in an effort to reduce disease risk in the area it is coordinating with the county to build a fence where the deer remains were found to prevent wild deer from accessing prions from the farmed deer remains.
The department manages and monitors CWD in areas where the disease has been detected in both captive and wild deer. Those areas include southeastern Minnesota, the Twin Cities south metro area, and Crow Wing County, Douglas County and Pine County in central Minnesota.
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.
The DNR says 115 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.
Test results, including locations of confirmed positive test results and statistics, are available here.