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Winona’s handling of deer park shutdown sparks outrage from witness

UPDATE: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture stated that they were not at the scene when the deer were put down. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health said one of their officials came to take samples of the deer for Chronic Wasting Disease after they were put down. Test results are still pending.

WINONA, Minn. (FOX 47) — Amid concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease, the city of Winona recently decided to eliminate deer at its deer park. While city maintains it’s doing the right thing, one resident is outraged over how those deer were put down.

Winona Public Works Director, Keith Nelson.
Winona Public Works Director, Keith Nelson, explains what happened Thursday morning at the Lefty Hymes Memorial Deer Park.

Scott Nation and his son went out to the deer park in Winona to see the deer one last time, but their experience was not as they expected. Leading to a social media blurb and Public Works Director Keith Nelson refuting Nation’s report of what happened.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen nothing, even on movies, that would be that…. it was like a warfare ‘let’s go get these deer’ and that was it,” said Nation.

Thursday morning, a group led by the Winona Public Works Department went to Lefty Hymes Memorial Deer Park put down the deer there.

“In recent council action, they chose to not continue the deer park, not continue it in the budget. We weren’t exactly sure when that would end, when we would be getting rid of the deer, but this morning we chose to dispatch the deer and get rid of them,” said Winona Public Works Director, Keith Nelson.

Winona resident Scott Nation
Long time Winona resident, Scott Nation, recounts what he saw Thursday morning at the Lefty Hymes Memorial Deer Park

Nelson said a Minnesota State Agriculture representative and a police officer were on the scene when it happened,

“We wanted to do it in a safe way and a humane way and somewhat of a discreet way. We didn’t want to cause a big stir with doing it.”

Scott Nation and his son were fans of the deer.

“Now, I knew it was coming up, but I didn’t know how soon. We wanted to get out there and see the deer before they were gone,” said Nation. “We went to the bench and sat down by the bench over by the park and all the sudden we heard what sounded like gunfire and a bunch of deer running all over.”

Nation said they were mortified by what they saw and how the crew acted in getting rid of the deer, but Nelson says the crew involved cared about the deer.

“The staff that was involved in doing this are a crew that had been taking care of this deer herd for 20+ years, to them it was more like they were pets than anything. It was a time that they didn’t enjoy what they were doing, but they were able to put the deer down and they did so professionally,” continued Nelson.

Lefty Hymes Memorial Deer Park in Winona
The Lefty Hymes Memorial Deer Park in Winona.

“I talked to him earlier, I actually called him, and I asked him about this and he told me it’s a third party, nobody involved with the deer, they hire a company to come in,” explained Nation.

I asked Nation if he saw the police out there. He replied, “Nope, I didn’t see no police out there, nobody, just us and them.”

I then asked Nation if he saw anybody from the Department of Agriculture out there. He said “Nope, there was just three plain trucks out there, nothing marked.”

I asked Nelson for clarification on who was at the site with them. Nelson said, “From the department of agriculture.”

Nation says according to information he read, they were not supposed to shoot the deer when euthanizing them.

Nelson said after they shot the deer, they buried them properly, as they were instructed by the Agricultural Department representative.

Scott Nation's Facebook post
Scott Nation took to Facebook Thursday morning to voice his displeasure.

Nation says that was upsetting as well, because of the way it was handled,

“They went down and just dumped the deer out and put wood chips over the top of them and left them.”

Nation posted his displeasure about his experience on Facebook, which stirred up a lot of reaction online.

“There was an individual that remained on site, from the public that watched it. I’m not sure why they didn’t leave, but that person did post some things that I thought were inappropriate,” said Nelson.

Nation could take take the matter to court.

“I told him right out on the phone, ‘if you don’t get something done and get it done right, I am going to go further, I’m gonna seek legal counsel.’ I want something done with the city the way they handled this. They were never supposed to shoot them and they never had barricades, they did it all the wrong way and they lied about everything they were gonna do with those deer,” explained Nation.

When my photographer and I went to the dog park, we did find the wood chips and what appeared to be deer carcasses burred underneath.

I reached out to the Minnesota DNR about whether that was a proper way to dispose of the deer, but the official I spoke with said they didn’t have enough information to comment at this time.

Holden Krusemark

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