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Movement of farmed deer banned in Minnesota amid CWD concerns

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(FOX47) — For the third time in less than a year, movement of farmed deer is banned across the state of Minnesota.

“We did one in June, we did one about a year ago in December,” said Dave Olfelt, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director of Division and Wildlife.

The fear is that farmed deer movement is spreading chronic waste disease (CWD), which impacts wild and farmed populations.

“As stewards of wild white-tailed deer, we’re doing everything we can to try to protect them,” said Olfelt.

CWD is known as a prion disease, which means it affects proteins in the brain.

“Eventually they’ll manifest into their brain, giving them neurological issues that start to waver, fall over, stagger,” said Clarissa Schrooten, a Naturalist at Oxbow Park.

One deer hunter in Dodge Center says in spite of mitigation efforts by groups like the DNR, the disease is making its way west among the wild deer population.

“It’s kind of just starting to pop up on the east-southeast part of Minnesota. It has slowly started to come this way, they’re kind of doing more control zones and surveillance zones,” said Ryan Waldee, a hunter and the Oxbow Park Foreman.

Hunters are required to send in samples of caught deer for testing.

“They have stopped allowing people to bait deer. You can’t even use scents anymore,” said Waldee.

What makes monitoring this disease so complicated is that its methods of testing cannot be performed on a live animal.

“So we take out lymph nodes, the pharyngeal lymph nodes here, so we extract them out of their skulls, and then there’s the obex, which is the brain stem of the deer. Obviously, the deer can’t be alive for this. So, it is dead test on the animal,” said Schrooten.

“The challenge of managing the disease is that it takes a while to manifest itself and we don’t find out until deer are dead,” said Olfelt.

Currently, there is no reported transmission in Minnesota from the Wisconsin farm that caused this movement ban.

“The deer that were transported into Minnesota were exposed,” said Olfelt.

“There is the potential that we could have CWD showing up, but after a year or so, I believe that they would die, for one, because CWD is lethal especially in white-tailed deer,” said Schrooten.

Noah Caplan

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