The Minnesota Board of Animal Health today announced that the final group of nine elk from an Aitkin County elk herd has tested negative for Chronic Wasting Disease. These findings mean all 48 elk from the Aitkin County farm have tested negative.
The Aitkin County herd has been held under quarantine since Aug. 30, when CWD was detected in a single adult male elk. The final group of nine elk to be tested was shipped to the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul, where they were euthanized. Veterinarians took tissue samples from each animal and submitted them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for testing.
Minnesota Board of Animal Health Executive Director Bill Hartmann said these results are encouraging.
“To date all testing in farmed and free-ranging deer in Aitkin County has been negative,” Hartmann said. “We are encouraged that preliminary results indicate that CWD has not spread from the single infected animal.”
The only confirmed case of CWD in Minnesota was the single male elk that died on the Aitkin County farm. State animal health officials decided to euthanize the entire herd because it is thought that CWD may be transmitted by animal-to-animal contact and the only way to test an animal for CWD is to obtain a brain sample.
“Now that all 48 elk in the Aitkin herd have tested negative, we’ll continue our investigation outside the Aitkin County herd,” Hartmann said. “Discussions are underway with USDA concerning the disposition of the two quarantined herds that remain in Stearns and Benton counties.”
In addition to the Aitkin County herd being tested by Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is testing wild deer culled within a nine-square-mile area surrounding the farm. So far, 106 deer killed by DNR sharpshooters, archery hunters, area landowners and traffic accidents have been submitted for testing. The DNR has received 17 additional test results from those deer, all of which were negative. So far, 64 deer from the surveillance area have not tested positive for CWD.
Permits issued to landowners who agreed to harvest deer for sampling in the surveillance area have expired. The DNR will continue to accept deer killed by firearms and archery deer hunters in permit area 154 for CWD sampling.