In an effort to complete its three-year statewide surveillance for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Minnesota’s wild deer population, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering incentives and streamlining its collection process for hunters who bring their deer in for testing. The DNR aims to collect 11,000 lymph node samples from wild deer this year and will enter hunters into statewide and local drawings for approximately 30 firearms and bows if they submit their animal for testing. Participating hunters will also receive a cooperator patch for participating in the testing program.

The drawings will take place after CWD testing is complete, and the samples are entered into a database. The guns and bows are being provided by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, Austin-Halleck muzzleloaders, Sportsman’s Warehouse, the Minnesota State Archery Association and Minnesota Bowhunters, Inc.

Lymph node collections will occur at more than 130 big game registration stations in 60 permit areas located in parts of the northwest, north-central, east-central and southwest portions of the state. A map detailing the permit areas can be found at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/cwd/testingstations.html.

Registration stations throughout the state will be open starting at 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 6-7. Most stations in the southwest will be open Nov. 13-14 as well. Hunters should check with their local DNR wildlife office to confirm the station’s operating hours and days, as some stations in the state will be open additional hours and days. A list of registration stations that will be staffed by DNR personnel is available at: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/natural_resources/animals/mammals/deer/cwd/testingstations2004.pdf (PDF).

The DNR has made several refinements to the sampling protocol that should make the process more efficient this year.

“We no longer need to remove the deer’s head,” said Lou Cornicelli, big game program coordinator for the DNR. “Instead, the lymph nodes will be removed right at the registration station, a process that should take just a few minutes. The hunter will be able to leave the check station with the deer intact.” The DNR will not sample lymph nodes from fawns, as research has shown that CWD can’t be detected reliably at that age. “Of course, weather and hunter success will still play a large role in the efficiency of our collection process,” said Cornicelli.

Hunters who harvest deer outside the CWD sampling areas and are interested in getting their deer tested can submit a sample through a local veterinarian. The list of participating veterinarians is available at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/cwd/vetclinics.html.

So far, CWD has been found only in two farmed elk in Minnesota. One elk tested positive for CWD after it died on an Aitkin County farm in August 2002. A second elk, which was part of a herd where the Aitkin elk originated, tested positive after it was quarantined and killed for testing on a Stearns County farm in January 2003.

While CWD has not been found in Minnesota’s wild deer population, hunters should follow these precautions:

  • Do not shoot an animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick; contact the local DNR conservation officer or DNR wildlife office immediately so an attempt can be made to find and dispatch the animal for testing.

  • Wear durable rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses and wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing.

  • Bone out the meat from the animal; don’t saw through bone and avoid cutting through the brain or backbone.

  • Do not consume brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes. The normal process of boning meat will remove most, if not all of these tissues.

This is the third and final year of DNR testing for CWD in Minnesota’s wild deer population. During the 2002 and 2003 deer hunting seasons, the DNR collected and tested 14,450 deer, none of which tested positive for CWD. Testing results for deer harvested in the 2004 season will be available at the DNR Web site at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us as results for each permit area are completed.