The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is relying on firearms deer hunters to help in the effort to determine if chronic wasting disease has infected the state’s wild deer herd.
Aside from providing deer for sampling in selected permit areas, DNR officials are asking that firearms deer hunters watch carefully for deer that may be displaying symptoms consistent with CWD. Hunters who see a deer that is excessively thin, drooling, has drooping ears, doesn’t show fear of humans or is drinking excessively should carefully note the location of the deer and report it to the DNR.
“We are asking hunters not to shoot sick-looking deer,” said Mike DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research manager. “Instead, hunters should report the precise location to a conservation officer or the local DNR wildlife official.”
Telephone numbers for DNR officials are available on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.
If a deer has CWD or any other disease, it is likely that it won’t leave the area, so DNR officials will be able to find it and get it tested.
“Hunters should carefully consider any deer they see before they decide to harvest it,” DonCarlos said. “If they don’t intend to eat it, they shouldn’t harvest it.”
ONGOING SURVEILLANCE For the past year, the DNR has conducted an ongoing surveillance program, testing “suspect” deer reported by citizens and DNR officials. The surveillance program also included deer culled in Aitkin County, where CWD was discovered in a single farmed elk. So far, more than 150 deer have been tested, including more than 100 in Aitkin County, and no positives have been found.
In addition, the DNR is asking firearms deer hunters who harvest an adult deer in one of the permit areas selected for CWD testing to register the deer as soon as possible so that good samples can be obtained for testing.
DNR staff will be at selected registration stations (see list on the DNR Web site) until the target number of samples is obtained at each station. The DNR will only sample deer older than one year and only those taken in specific target areas. Samples will not be taken from every deer registered at these locations.
Hunters who would like to have their deer tested also have another opportunity because more than 150 veterinarians at 98 clinics have agreed to collect brain stem samples for chronic wasting disease testing from deer harvested during this fall’s firearms season. (Check the chronic wasting disease information page on the DNR Web site for a list of veterinary clinics where hunters can take deer for CWD testing.)
Samples will be sent to the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul for testing. Hunters will be notified of results through the mail. The test will be available to any hunter who wants a deer tested for a fee determined by local veterinarians and the diagnostic lab.
CARCASS DISPOSAL Bones and other remains may be disposed through rendering, burial, incineration or landfill, DonCarlos said.
“We are asking hunters not to dispose of deer carcass remains in public road ditches or on public land,” DonCarlos said.
PRECAUTIONS Hunters who take the following precautions should be able to safely eat deer or elk taken this season, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Hunters should follow these recommendations: •do not consume meat from any deer that looks or acts ill •do not eat the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of any deer •remove meat from bones rather than sawing through bones •field dress the animal properly; minimize handling of brain or spinal tissues, wear sturdy rubber or latex gloves when field dressing, wash hands and instruments after field dressing is complete.
Each year more than 500,000 Minnesota hunters harvest roughly 200,000 whitetail deer in Minnesota. This year, hunters are being asked to take advantage of management and intensive harvest permits to help keep the state’s deer population in check.
“Managing deer populations at goal densities is an important part of maintaining a healthy deer herd,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game and season management specialist. “We rely heavily on hunters to help do that.”