Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor has tentative plans to review the state’s management of deer and elk farms in response to urgings from legislators, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and at least two deer-hunting groups.
Judy Randall, deputy legislative auditor, said Tuesday that concerns about the possible spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) from privately owned captive deer and elk to the state’s wild herd of 1 million whitetails sparked interest in an evaluation. The topic was sixth on this year’s list of audit priorities set by the bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission. The top five priorities will receive immediate attention, but resources should be available later this year to look at the Board of Animal Health (BAH), Randall said.
“We’ll be picking it up in the fall to see if there’s something we can do that’s useful,’’ she said.
Besides regulating deer and elk farms, BAH oversees more traditional livestock operations as well as governing poultry producers and commercial dog and cat breeders. The agency reported about $6.5 million in expenditures for fiscal year 2016, ranking it low on selection criteria in terms of money. But the auditor’s office said in a briefing paper that the agency’s oversight of farmed deer and elk is a timely topic and could have a significant impact.
“Failure to respond appropriately to a disease outbreak could result in significant damage to the state’s livestock industry or wildlife resource, which could have ripple effects on the state’s economy,’’ the briefing paper said.
The review would come on the heels of Minnesota’s largest-ever outbreak of CWD in wild deer. Months of DNR disease surveillance starting last fall in southeastern Minnesota led to 11 confirmed cases of CWD, including 10 cases clustered near Preston. The cause is under investigation.