DNR: 2 deer test positive for chronic wasting disease near Lanesboro

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A DNR employee removes lymph nodes from a white-tailed deer at a registration station to test for chronic wasting disease. Photo: DNR

Two deer shot near Lanesboro, Minnesota are believed to have been infected with Chronic Wasting Disease, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says.

The deer, both male, were shot on different weekends by different hunting parties, but only approximately one mile apart. These are the first wild deer to be infected with CWD since one deer near Pine Island tested positive in 2010.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose, but is not believed to pose a health risk to humans. It is transmitted primarily form animal-to-animal by infectious agents in feces, urine or saliva, but can also be contracted from contaminated soil. The movement of live animals is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease to new areas, the DNR says.

These were the only two deer to test positive for the disease of the 2,493 hunter-killed deer the DNR sampled in southeastern Minnesota this fall as part of its CWD surveillance program. Three hundred more samples have yet to be tested, so more cases could still be found.

“We were proactively looking for the disease, a proven strategy that allows us to manage CWD by finding it early, reacting quickly and aggressively to control it and hopefully eliminating its spread,” Dr. Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said in a statement.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health will establish a disease control zone with a 10-mile radius around the area where the two deer were found, according to a statement. The board says farmed deer and elk herd owners within the zone will not be allowed to move their animals in or out of the zone until the restriction has been lifted.

Minnesota has been actively testing for CWD since 2002, following a huge surge of cases in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has never been able to contain the disease, and CWD is now active in 18 counties.

The DNR is particularly focusing their CWD surveillance efforts on southeastern Minnesota because it is adjacent to the parts of Wisconsin and Iowa where the disease has been found.