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A suspected case of chronic wasting disease has been found in a wild deer in northwestern Minnesota, and now the Minnesota DNR has implemented voluntary sampling of all deer hunted in the area during the firearms season that begins Saturday, Nov. 6. 

The DNR says preliminary test results from a deer harvested southwest of Climax, near the border of North Dakota, "strongly indicate" the deer had CWD but official confirmation is expected next week. 

If confirmed, this would be the first case of the deadly neurological disease to be reported in wild or captive deer in this area of Minnesota. 

The DNR does not have any CWD sampling requirements in place in the area — the hunter voluntarily collected the sample and paid for a private test. When the results came back positive, the hunter contacted the DNR. 

“Thanks to this hunter’s early discovery, we have the chance to act quickly and be proactive,” Seth Goreham, acting wildlife research manager for the DNR, said in a statement. “We’re asking hunters to submit samples so we can determine the extent of CWD in the area and take steps to help control the spread.” 

The DNR says those who harvest deer in permit areas 261 and 262 (between Moorhead on the south and Oslo on the north), are encouraged to leave samples of the animal at self-service stations in Neilsville and Climax (the exact locations are TBD, with more information set to be released here).

North Dakota Fish and Game has also increased its hunter-harvested surveillance efforts to include Unit 2B in eastern North Dakota, encouraging hunters to submit the head of the deer they shoot for testing, a news release said. 

Meanwhile, anyone who hunts a deer in a deer permit area in any of Minnesota's CWD zones must submit the animal's head for testing. Northwestern Minnesota is not currently in a CWD zone. 

Related: Mandatory CWD testing returns for this year's deer hunting season

Testing is free for deer harvested in permit areas 261 and 262 and any other deer permit areas designated as a CWD surveillance, management or control zone. Hunters who harvest deer outside a CWD zone can collect lymph node samples and pay a small fee for a CWD test (information on how to do that can be found here).

Related: Minnesota DNR unveils what deer hunters can expect this season

So far, 118 cases of CWD have been documented in wild deer in Minnesota, the majority in southeastern Minnesota. But cases of CWD have been found at several deer farms in the state and in a carcass that had been dumped outside of a quarantine area, prompting the DNR to temporarily ban the movement of farmed deer into and within Minnesota to help prevent the spread of the disease. 

In addition to southeastern Minnesota, the DNR continues to monitor and manage CWD near Bemidji, the Brainerd Lakes area and in the southern Twin Cities metro. 

The DNR's CWD website is here.

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