Winter sampling is complete in southeastern Minnesota and none of 1,180 deer taken during the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) disease surveillance effort tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

“We looked hard and found nothing,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator. “This suggests the infection rate is low, which is very good news.”

Landowners and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sharpshooters took 752 yearling or older deer during the sampling. The DNR also tested 87 deer that died from vehicle collisions or other means.

The DNR initiated sharpshooting this winter following the discovery of a CWD-positive deer in November in the Pine Island area. Shooting permits for 315 landowners expired Feb. 28. USDA sharpshooting ended April 1. All laboratory tests were completed Wednesday, April 6. Most landowners kept the deer they shot. Deer taken by sharpshooters were donated to individuals who signed up to receive them.

Cornicelli praised local landowners for their cooperation in the surveillance effort. “They opened their lands. They shot deer. They helped in so many ways. We thank them for that and look forward to working with them in the future,” he said.

All sampling efforts took place within a 10-mile radius of where an archery hunter harvested the a CWD-positive deer in November. Thus far, it is the only wild deer to test positive for CWD in Minnesota.

Cornicelli said the removal of more than a thousand deer from the Pine Island area will minimize the potential for the disease to spread from animal to animal.

With the winter surveillance period over, DNR will begin planning for changes to this fall’s deer season in the area. Those plans will be announced later this spring but hunters can expect a new CWD management zone, mandatory sample submission, carcass transport restrictions, liberalized seasons and increased bag limits.

Details of these changes and other CWD information will be posted on the DNR’s website .

CWD is a fatal animal brain disease. The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have found no scientific evidence that the disease presents a health risk to humans. The disease is found in 14 other states and two Canadian provinces, including Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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