Another Minnesota deer farm deer has been confirmed to carry chronic wasting disease, the always-fatal deer disease that is spreading on deer farms and in the wild in the Northland and across the nation.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Friday confirmed that a doe on a deer farm in eastern Pine County carried CWD. Animals on the farm were being investigated by state officials because it sent deer to another deer farm near Alexandria, Minn., where a deer was confirmed in December to have CWD.
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Both of those deer are dead; the only way to test for CWD is after the animal has died. All other deer on the Alexandria-area farm were also killed and eight remaining deer on the Pine County farm must also be killed under state laws aimed at slowing the spread of CWD. The farmer will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Owners of the infested farms also must take steps to keep wild deer from getting on their property where the disease can survive in the soil and in plants long after deer are gone.
“We identified the Pine County herd as high priority early in our investigation because our records showed it provided deer to the Douglas County (Minn.) herd,” said Dr. Linda Glaser, assistant director of the Board of Animal Health. “At this point in the investigation, CWD has not been detected in any of the other herds connected to Douglas County.”
In addition to depopulating the farm, and testing all of the animals for CWD, the Pine County herd owner must also maintain fencing with biohazard signage for five years.
Glaser said the investigation is now moving beyond the Pine County herd to discover where deer from that farm both came from and moved to in recent years.
While the Board of Animal Health oversees all farmed animals, the Minnesota Department of Natural resources also is moving to keep the CWD from spreading in the wild. The DNR recently imposed a one-month moratorium on the movement of all tame deer in the state until more was known about where the most-recently infected animals came from.
CWD is a disease of the deer and elk family caused by prions, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine and other fluids or tissues. The disease is fatal in deer, moose, caribou and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. While CWD has never been found in humans, multiple health organizations urge people not to eat meat from contaminated animals.
Wildlife biologists say deer and elk farms, which often trade animals long distances across state lines, are a likely pathway for CWD to spread. Several deer and elk farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin have had animals test positive for CWD and Minnesota wildlife officials say three of the four CWD outbreaks among wild deer in the state are likely traced to infected deer farm animals.
Nearly 60 wild deer have tested positive for CWD in Minnesota in recent years with thousands of CWD-positive wild deer in Wisconsin.
There are 339 licensed deer farms in Minnesota and 360 in Wisconsin.