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St. Louis County makes deer farm ban permanent

The county won't allow new or expanded deer farms to guard against chronic wasting disease.

deer farm deer
Captive deer at a deer farm feed at a feeder. The St. Louis County Board on Tuesday voted to permanently ban any new or expanded deer farms in the county in an effort to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.
Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune
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WRIGHT — The St. Louis County Board on Tuesday voted to permanently prohibit new deer and elk farms in the county in an effort to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.

The unanimous vote, held during the commissioners' regular meeting in Wright, updates the county’s zoning ordinance to allow existing cervid farms to continue to operate but prohibits expansion of those existing farms. As of May, the county had only five such cervid farms in operation among about 250 statewide.

The county had been operating under a one-year temporary moratorium on new deer farms that would have expired at the end of September. The permanent ban takes effect immediately.

Wildlife biologists say deer and elk farms have been a likely pathway for CWD to spread over long distances much faster than it would have naturally between wild animals. Farmed deer and elk are often trucked across long distances to different states, often for trophy hunting. Infected farmed deer can escape from farms or transmit CWD through fences

CWD is always fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines. In 2021, a CWD-positive deer farm was confirmed in Beltrami County and, earlier this year, two wild deer tested positive for CWD in Grand Rapids in neighboring Itasca County — the first wild deer confirmed with the deer in Northeastern Minnesota.

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“Most of us at this table have been at a deer camp and enjoy deer hunting,’’ said Commissioner Patrick Boyle, of Duluth, who first raised the issue a year ago. “I thank the board for this. It’s the right step and the right direction.”

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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