St Paul (KROC AM News) - Two more deer suspected of being infected with chronic wasting disease have been found in the Preston area in Fillmore County.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it received preliminary results of the positive tests last Friday. Final results are expected later this week. The two adult females were killed within a mile of the first two positive deer. Confirmation of the new cases would bring the total number of current CWD-positive deer to five.

This latest discovery will prompt the DNR to consider removing more deer to better assess the disease’s prevalence. The current harvest goal is 900.  Through Saturday, hunters had  killed about 575 deer in the disease management zone as part of a special hunt that began Dec 31 and runs through this coming Sunday.

“We won’t make any final decisions until after Jan. 15 when the special hunt concludes,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “But with the discovery of an infected deer 5 miles north of Preston and these two new presumptive positive deer, it’s prudent that we increase our original surveillance goal of sampling 900 adult deer.”

A higher surveillance goal also results in more potentially infected deer being removed from the population, which helps to reduce CWD’s spread.

The DNR began a series of meetings with landowners to issue deer shooting permits that become effective Monday, Jan. 16; a five-county deer feeding ban is in place; and an aerial survey to determine deer population and density in the area now is complete.

“Our best chance at containing the spread of CWD and hopefully eliminating the disease is to take quick and aggressive action,” Cornicelli said. “Asking landowners and hunters to reduce the deer population helps minimize the spread of disease. Fewer deer means less deer-to-deer contact occurs, lowering the risk of sick deer transmitting CWD to healthy deer.”

Results of the aerial deer population survey estimate that there are 11,600 deer in an area that includes the disease management zone and an area to the north where the third CWD-positive deer was discovered. Population estimates show a higher density of animals within a 12 square-mile radius of the site near Preston where the first CWD-positive deer was discovered.

“The aerial survey tells us where deer are as well as where they are more likely to congregate,” Cornicelli said. “Knowing that helps us determine if more deer need to be removed in certain areas to better reduce potential spread of the disease.”

So far, the DNR has issued about 115 landowner shooting permits. The permits become effective Monday, Jan. 16, the day after the special hunt concludes. They allow landowners and their designees to shoot deer on their property so DNR hopefully can reach its disease sampling goal.

A ban prohibiting the feeding of wild deer in a larger area that includes all of Fillmore, Houston, Mower, Olmsted and Winona counties is in effect as part of the DNR’s comprehensive long-term disease management strategy.

“The purpose of the ban is to reduce the potential for the disease to spread from deer-to-deer by reducing the number of deer concentration sites,” Cornicelli said. “The disease can spread from one deer to another following nose-to-nose contact, contact with saliva or other body fluids. By eliminating deer feeding sites where that easily can occur, we reduce potential for the disease to spread.”

The deer feeding ban makes it illegal to place or have food capable of attracting wild deer. This includes salt/mineral blocks and deer attractants. People who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that precludes access to deer or place the food at least 6 feet above ground level.

“We recognize that people enjoy feeding wildlife,” Cornicelli said. “Those who do so must place the feed so deer can’t access it.”

Food placed as a result of normal agricultural practices is generally exempted from this rule. But cattle operators should take steps that minimize contact between deer and cattle.

CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose but is not known to affect human health. Prior to the five recent discoveries, the only other wild deer with the disease found in Minnesota was harvested near Pine Island in 2010.

For more information, including a map of the disease management zone, locations of infected deer, landowner information, special deer hunt information, deer feeding ban, common questions and answers and hunter information, visit the DNR’s CWD webpage.


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