MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota is
taking a three-pronged approach to curbing the spread of a
fatal brain disease among the state's estimated 1 million
wild deer, the state Department of Natural Resources said
The agency has taken an
aggressive approach to combating chronic wasting disease,
which is incurable, said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's
wildlife research manager.
"In the case of this
disease, we know doing nothing is not an option,"
Cornicelli said in a teleconference.
The agency plans to expand
hunting opportunities and bag limits in areas where the
been found in wild deer. Harvesting more deer will
reduce chances of the disease being spread, the DNR said.
A ban on feeding deer and
using attractants — including doe urine and mineral or
salt blocks — will go into effect in 18 counties in
southeastern and north-central Minnesota on Sunday.
Feeding is already banned in six central Minnesota
counties. The DNR said shared food encourages close
contact among deer, leading to the easy spread of disease.
The agency said it expanded the ban after additional cases
of chronic wasting disease were discovered in wild deer
last fall and winter.
"We understand people
enjoy feeding birds or other animals, but this has
inherent risks," DNR wildlife health specialist Erik
Hildebrand said in a news release.
People who live in counties
where deer feeding is banned need to remove any salt,
grains or other food that attracts deer. People who feed
birds or small mammals must keep the food away from deer;
bird feed should be kept at least 6 feet (1.8 meters)
above ground. People living in southeastern and
north-central Minnesota must remove any natural or
manufactured products that attract deer.
The 2019 Legislature put
into state law a DNR regulation that bans
movement of whole carcasses of deer, elk, moose and
caribou harvested from outside the state into Minnesota,
Cornicelli said. The DNR also restricts movement of deer
harvested near areas where other hunters have harvested
deer that tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
DNR big game program leader
Barbara Keller said deer hunters "are integral to our
disease management efforts."
"CWD is still a
relatively rare disease in our state, and we aim to keep
it that way," Keller said in a statement.
The disease is not
prevalent among Minnesota's whitetails, Cornicelli said.
Since 2016, about 50 cases of CWD have been detected in
wild deer in Minnesota, he said.
The disease was first
confirmed in Minnesota in a captive
elk farm in Aitkin County in east-central Minnesota in
2002 and later detected among wild deer in a hot zone in
southeastern Minnesota in 2016.
Executive director Craig
Engwall of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, which
has nearly 20,000 members, told The Associated Press on
Tuesday that his organization has been supportive of the
DNR's aggressive approach to chronic wasting.
"We think it's
important that Minnesota continue to be proactive in
addressing CWD so that we don't become a Wisconsin
," where the disease has swept across the state,
Engwall said. "They (Wisconsin officials) were
passive, and they paid the price."
The disease causes brain
lesions in deer, elk and moose. While there is no strong
evidence that CWD can affect humans, the Centers for
Disease Control says the disease may pose a risk to people
and exposure should be avoided.