Friday was a bad day in the effort to keep chronic wasting disease contained in Minnesota as the always fatal deer disease continues to spread on deer farms and in the wild.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health reported Friday that four more deer tested positive for CWD on an eastern Pine County deer farm that had a single positive deer reported in January.
Meanwhile the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported a CWD-positive wild deer in Dakota County, more than 100 miles away from where the nearest wild deer had tested positive in the state.
The Pine County deer farm also was the source of yet another CWD-positive deer that went to a deer farm near Alexandria, Minn., last year. In all, five of the nine total animals at the Pine County herd were CWD positive. All have been destroyed as the only way to test for the diseases is on a dead animal.
The Pine and Douglas county sites are not allowed to have any deer or elk for five years. Owners must maintain fencing to prevent wild deer from accessing empty pens. Biohazard signs have been posted on the fencing and must be maintained for the entire five-year fallow period. The investigation is ongoing, and the Board of Animal Health will continue to take immediate action if any new detections are identified.
In Dakota County, at the southern reaches of the Twin Cities, the CWD-positive wild adult male buck was reported by a local resident near Farmington as displaying neurological symptoms. The animal was killed and tested as part of the DNR’s risk-based disease surveillance program.
“An informed citizen did the right thing by calling DNR, which allowed us to identify and remove this deer from the landscape,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “We’re hopeful the disease is not widespread in the area.”
In the short term, the DNR is developing plans to sample more deer in the Farmington area until the fall hunting season allows widespread testing in the area next fall.
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 and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. The disease has never been found in humans, but multiple health experts advise against eating any meat from CWD contaminated animals.