DNR Continues Extensive CWD Testing

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced plans today to nearly triple the number of wild deer tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD) during this fall’s hunting seasons.

No positive results were found last year in tests on about 4,400 deer. This fall, the goal is to test 13,000 hunter-harvested deer for CWD. The intensified effort is part of a plan to test wild deer throughout the state in the next two to three years, said Lou Cornicelli, big game coordinator for the DNR Division of Wildlife.

Samples will be collected at 135 big-game registration stations in 60 permit areas located in the northwest, northeast, east-central and west-central portions of the state. A map detailing the permit areas can be found on the DNR Web site.

Like last year, DNR staff, with the help of volunteers and tribal authorities, will ask firearms hunters to submit their deer for sampling as they bring the animal in for registration.

Cornicelli said a streamlined sampling process will help staff collect the additional samples this year, although weather and hunter success will still play a large role in the effort’s success.

"We made several refinements that should make the process more efficient this year," Cornicelli said. "Deer permit areas have been clustered so more deer that arrive at a DNR staffed registration will be sampled. We have also streamlined the data collection process, which should allow hunters to get in and out of the registration station quickly."

Also different from last year’s procedure will be the type of test run on samples, Cornicelli said. This year a lymph node will be removed from the harvested deer’s head for testing rather than brain stem tissue. The deer’s head will still need to be removed at the registration station.

Cornicelli said the DNR encourages archery hunters who harvest a deer at least one year old in a targeted permit area to contact their local wildlife office so a sample can be collected. A list of wildlife offices is available on the DNR Web site. Fawns will not be tested because the prevalence rate of the disease is so low it can’t be detected with reliability at that age.

Hunters who volunteer a sample this year will receive a DNR cooperator patch and be placed in a drawing to win one of several firearms being offered by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Bluffland Whitetails Association.

Cornicelli reminded hunters that they must present the deer at the time of registration to legally comply with the registration requirements.

Hunters who harvest deer outside areas where the DNR is collecting samples and who are interested in getting their deer tested will again be able to submit a sample through their local veterinarian. The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is currently updating a list of participating veterinarians. The list will be available on the DNR Web site.

So far, CWD in Minnesota has been found only in farmed elk. One elk tested positive for CWD after it died on an Aitkin County farm in August 2002. A second elk, which was part of a herd where the Aitkin elk originated, tested positive after it was quarantined and killed for testing on a Stearns County farm in January 2003. While CWD has not been found in Minnesota’s wild deer, hunters should follow these precautions:

Do not shoot an animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick; contact the local DNR conservation officer or DNR wildlife office immediately so an attempt can be made to find and dispatch the animal for testing

Wear durable rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses and wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing

Bone out the meat from the animal; don't saw through bone and avoid cutting through the brain or backbone

Do not consume brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes. The normal process of boning meat will remove most, if not all of these tissues.

Testing results will be available at the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us once the sampling for the permit area is completed.