A judge issued a restraining order Tuesday that prevents a company in southeastern Minnesota from receiving thousands of deer carcasses — possibly infected with chronic wasting disease — from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The order by Houston County District Judge Robert Benson at least temporarily halts a plan by the state of Wisconsin to store deer carcasses in southeastern Minnesota until tests show whether the carcasses are infected with the fatal brain and neurological disorder.
Chronic wasting disease has been found in about 40 free-ranging deer in south-central Wisconsin and threatens the state’s deer hunting, which generates an estimated $500 million in revenue each year.
The disease has not been found in any Minnesota deer, and officials are working to keep the disease out of the state.
Minnesota officials contended, and Benson agreed, that Minnesota law forbids transporting or receiving any deer, carcass, or part of a carcass from the chronic wasting disease infection zone of Wisconsin into Minnesota.
Allen Garber, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said in an affidavit seeking the restraining order that chronic wasting disease could seriously damage the hunting and tourism industries in Minnesota.
“Not only would the prevalence of this disease in Minnesota have disastrous impacts on those who rely on the hunting industry for their livelihoods; it would harm the quality of life of thousands of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts throughout the state,” Garber said.
After finding 40 infected deer, Wisconsin officials came up with a plan to kill 25,000 deer in the infection zone to test them for the disease. The plan is to burn the carcasses of the infected deer and place the others in landfills.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources contracted earlier this month with Wiebke Produce Inc. of Caledonia to store the carcasses in a freezer in Minnesota while the tests are conducted. Wiebke would first skin the deer to remove the hide.
Michael DonCarlos of the Minnesota DNR explained in an affidavit how concerned Minnesota officials were about the Wisconsin plan. DonCarlos said he contacted Joe Brusca of the Wisconsin DNR.
“I told Mr. Brusca that the Minnesota DNR does not want the State of Wisconsin to send their deer carcasses from the CWD endemic area into the State of Minnesota,” DonCarlos said in the affidavit.
The Wisconsin DNR did not agree to change its plan, DonCarlos said.
DonCarlos also said he asked Thomas Wiebke of Wiebke Produce not to bring Wisconsin deer carcasses to Minnesota.
“Mr. Wiebke did not agree to my request,” DonCarlos said in the affidavit.
Pioneer Press efforts to contact Wiebke for comment were unsuccessful.
DonCarlos said in his affidavit that Wisconsin law prevents the deer carcasses from being placed in a landfill unless they have tested negative for chronic wasting disease. If a deer tests positive for the disease or there is no test, the carcass must be incinerated, the Wisconsin DNR official told DonCarlos.
“Mr. Brusca indicated that Wisconsin did not want to incur the cost to incinerate all of the deer it was testing,” DonCarlos said. “Accordingly Wisconsin was planning to test all of the deer and to only incinerate the deer that tested positive for CWD. As the CWD test results are not immediate, Wisconsin was looking for a storage facility for the deer carcasses while it awaited the test results.”
There is no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease can infect humans, but the World Health Organization advises that people shouldn’t eat any meat from deer or elk with the disease. The disease hasn’t been known to spread naturally to animals other than deer or elk.