A special hunting season opened this weekend in southeastern Minnesota, where wildlife managers want to get rid of a fatal deer disease before it can spread through the state's whitetail herd.
Biologists say chronic wasting disease, or CWD, strikes the brains of deer or elk. Animals who have it start acting strangely, then become emaciated and eventually just waste away.
It's no threat to humans but since deer spread it to each other, it's a serious threat to Minnesota's herd – and to the state's huge deer hunting industry.
That's why the DNR called a special hunting season that started Saturday and runs through Jan. 15. They want to thin out the deer herd in the area where the disease was found to reduce the chance of CWD spreading.
Where's the hunt?
It's only for a small part of southeastern Minnesota – the area where three deer that hunters bagged this fall were found to have CWD. Two of those whitetails were shot a few miles west of Lanesboro, the other about five miles north of there. That third one was identified just last week, after a taxidermist sent a sample to state officials for testing.
There's a map of the special hunt area here, but basically it's everything within a ten mile radius of the town of Preston.
If you want to join the hunt, you have to get permission from the DNR and any deer you kill have to be taken to them for testing. Besides the DNR office in Preston, there are temporary testing stations set up in Lanesboro, Wykoff, Harmony, and Chatfield.
You can hunt with a bow, shotgun, muzzleloader, or handgun but not a rifle. And of course you have to wear blaze orange.
On Friday the Board of Animal Health announced that on a deer farm in north central Minnesota two deer have also tested positive for CWD. The Board will work with the DNR on how to handle that situation, but the Star Tribune says for now no animals are being allowed in or out of that Crow Wing County farm.