No positives have been found in more than 5,000 Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) tests run on brain-stem samples collected from Minnesota’s wild deer during the fall of 2002, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has completed testing on 4,462 samples collected at registration stations during the 2002 firearms deer season. An additional 540 samples were tested at the request of hunters who paid veterinarians to extract samples. CWD is a fatal brain disease of deer and elk that has been found in two farmed elk but no wild deer in Minnesota.

“This is great news, but by no means are we saying that Minnesota’s wild deer population has a clean bill of health,” said Mike DonCarlos, research manager for the DNR Division of Wildlife. “CWD testing will absolutely be part of DNR deer management plans for the foreseeable future.”

DNR wildlife researchers are currently designing a plan to collect samples from hunter-harvested deer at a different set of big game registration stations next fall. Eventually, the DNR plans to collect samples from wild deer in all permit areas across Minnesota.

Permit areas are prioritized for CWD sample collection based on their geographic location in the state, overall deer population, and concentration of deer and elk farms, DonCarlos said.

In addition to sample collection during hunting seasons, the DNR will continue the year-round effort to collect samples from “suspect” deer that are found sick or displaying symptoms consistent with CWD.

NO PLANS TO CULL

DNR officials said they have no plans to cull wild deer for additional CWD sampling in the area surrounding the farm where a second CWD-positive elk was discovered in January.

“More than 900 samples were collected from three permit areas near the farm last fall,” DonCarlos said. “We will focus our efforts between now and next fall on collecting and testing any ‘suspect’ or dead deer that we can get from the vicinity of the farm.”

Minnesota’s response to CWD and testing efforts are projected to cost about $1 million, which will be paid for through existing funding.