Minnesota DNR Weekly CWD Testing Briefing (2/17/11)

Just quickly, here are some tidbits of information as gleaned from the Minnesota DNR’s weekly teleconference on their Chronic Wasting Disease testing effort near Pine Island, Minnesota:

  • First off, these weekly briefings might be put on hold for future weeks until either a significant discovery occurs or until greater numbers of tested animals have been completed.
  • On Monday night there was a public information meeting in Pine Island (MN) where over 350 concerned citizens turned out to show their interest in this subject.   The meeting was very civil, polite and most would agree it was constructive.
  • In general, the Minnesota DNR is finding great cooperation from both the general public and landowners on this effort now three weeks into it.   Dr. Lou Cornicelli states he could not be more pleased with how everything is working out so far.
  • At this point 300 shooting permits have been issued to cooperating landowners.   On average about 25 more permits are being issued daily.
  • As of 9:00am this morning there was a total of 260 deer that have been killed for testing.   Of this, only 180 deer are considered adults.   Note: Only adult deer are being counted toward the 900 deer that are needed for the completion of this CWD survey.
  • However, ALL DEER are being tested as part of the effort.
  • So far, there have been 240 test results returned with NO POSITIVES for CWD.
  • It should be noted that deer less than 12 months old generally do not test positive for CWD…that’s why testing adults is more important.
  • Due to the warmer weather as of late, the DNR has been forced to go out and get a bigger cooler facility (available tomorrow) so they can handle all the carcasses while the testing samples are out.
  • A list of about 200 people from the general public has put in a request for deer meat.   Bottom line is most of the deer taken in this surveillance effort will be consumed once they have been tested safe.
  • The MN DNR signed a contract late last week with the USDA Wildlife Service team (sharpshooters) who have used this week to establish landowner contact and formulate their culling plans.
  • It was pointed out that the sharpshooters are able to kill the deer over bait because ALL deer that come to the bait are subsequently killed for testing.
  • The sharpshooters will likely begin their efforts early next week.   They expect this involves about 8 to 10 shooters who generally work alone or in teams of two.
  • The DNR felt it necessary to supplement the efforts of the landowners with the federal sharpshooters in order to get the necessary testing samples taken prior to spring.
  • A deer feeding ban went into effect in four counties as of Monday.   During the aerial fly-overs the DNR was able to identify 39 recreational bait sites where people were feeding deer.   As of today, 25 of those people have been contacted or attended the public meeting on Monday night.   So far everyone has suspended those feeding efforts as requested.   The remaining 14 sites will be contacted today or tomorrow.   Generally there’s been good cooperation all around.
  • Oxbow park has a deer population of about 100 animals and the sharpshooters will likely be working at this location.
  • It was asked if the recent warm weather has created any concerns for the DNR.   At this point it has only created meat storage issues.   However, if the warm weather continues and more of the snow pack disappears rapidly…this could become a bigger issue.   Here in Minnesota after March 1st all bets are usually off with counting on snow to linger for any big duration of time.

For additional information on Minnesota’s ongoing CWD effort please click HERE.

– = End of update = –

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Minnesota Puts Its Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan Into Action

Things are moving fast at the Minnesota DNR these days when it comes to formulating an agency response to act on the first positive CWD test report from a deer killed in Southeastern Minnesota by a bowhunter in late November.

Today, the MN DNR issued this press release and offered a teleconference question and answer session with Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s Big Game Specialist heading those response efforts.   Here’s a few major excerpts from the news release along with additional information learned from the teleconference call.

…Landowners who obtain shooting permits from the DNR will be authorized to take deer in a portion of southeastern Minnesota within roughly 10 miles of where a CWD positive wild deer was found, as part of the agency’s efforts to sample wild deer in the Pine Island area for CWD.

Landowners who accept shooting permits will be allowed to authorize additional shooters. All harvested deer will be tested for CWD…

Essentially the DNR will be giving out to qualified landowners ~10 permits initially and when they fill them they would then likely get additional permits distributed five at a time.   This effort is NOT being termed a “hunt” in the traditional sense, rather, the department prefers the terminology calling it a “landowner shooting permit” for purposes of identifying the extent of this disease in the test area.   A “hunt” connotes that anybody could have a chance to participate, which is not the case.

At this time all shooting will be conducted by the landowners and folks with whom they delegate.   If needed, Federal sharpshooters might be contracted with to assist in the testing efforts to achieve the sample objectives.   It is expected some of the first samples may be taken as early as this weekend.

…Carcasses of deer taken can be retained by the landowner or designated shooters, or surrendered to DNR for donation to individuals.  CWD test results are expected to be available within three business days so that people holding carcasses can make decisions on processing and consumption…

The DNR will require all carcasses remain on the property where they are shot while testing procedures are being done to determine if the deer is positive for CWD.   The other option is all deer can be surrendered to the DNR where they will be donated to agencies for food, if the meat is determined to be wholesome.   Bottom line is MOST of the deer will likely be used for human food unless the results determine it to be unsafe to consume.   The DNR will be going to the landowner’s locations daily to obtain the needed tissue samples for testing.

…The deer population estimate based on the aerial survey has been completed and DNR estimates there are 6,500 deer within a 10-mile radius around the positive deer. Of those 6,500 deer, 1,900 were seen within the core area, which is roughly a 5-mile radius around the positive deer. Some of the highest deer numbers were observed in the area the positive deer was taken.  Based on these numbers, DNR has calculated a surveillance goal of 900 deer, of which 500 should be taken from the core area…

In other words, to get the proper sampling for this testing effort the landowners must shoot 900 deer—of which 500 must come within the 5–mile area surrounding where the first deer tested positive.   Recent helicopter census efforts have determined that within this 5–mile area there is a total population of 1,900 deer.   Furthermore, in the township land sections immediately surrounding the location where the deer tested positive, this 9–square mile area contains about 750 deer.   That represents a density of about 65–70 deer/square mile.   Most of this heavy concentration is because of recreational feeding efforts and deep snows.   The typical (more ideal) density levels for deer would be 15–20/square mile for this area.

Cornicelli states that it is the process of recreational deer feeding by unsuspecting people that can be the leading causative factor in how this disease gets spread from one animal to another.   Therefore;

…a deer feeding ban covering Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties will be in place later this month. The feeding ban includes a wider area because the potential extent of the CWD infection is not known and one of the most probable mechanisms for CWD spread among deer is over a food source that concentrates animals…

So far the DNR has had good cooperation from all landowners in the area for both the sampling efforts and also to stop any purposeful efforts toward deer feeding.

…DNR officials will present current CWD information and plans at a public meeting scheduled for Monday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Pine Island High School cafeteria. After the presentation, a panel of experts from DNR, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will be available to answer questions…

The DNR is hoping to make contact with as many landowners as possible before the public meeting so they have a heads up on what is happening and landowners don’t have to go to the public meeting to hear the details first.

Some other random points worth mentioning as gleaned from today’s teleconference:

  • A fixed wing aircraft was initially used to survey the 10–mile radius area with a helicopter used for a more thorough census conducted within the 5–mile radius “core” area.   The center of which is where the positive sampling was taken back in November.
  • Once a population estimate could be established then a surveillance (sample) size goal could be established.
  • The deer are unevenly distributed in this area due mostly to snow depth and feeding efforts.
  • It’s going to be a difficult next few weeks because by mid-March there could be snow melt, flooding, etc. that would make the sampling effort more challenging.
  • Carcass hold time will be brief as the lab will get results back on deer within three days.
  • So far (as of Friday) only about 6 or 8 landowners have been permitted so far.   Not aware of any deer taken yet, but that will likely change over this weekend.
  • Local ordinances cannot be exempted for discharge of firearms so if deer must be targeted (at some point in the future) around municipalities this will present unique challenges.   Hopefully the cities will work with the DNR.
  • Wisconsin has CWD positive deer about 150 miles away from this site.   The positive deer is about 3 miles southwest of the elk farm where CWD was detected positive in the captive elk herd.   People can draw their own conclusions as to how this disease got into the wild deer population, but there will likely be no means of determining for sure how it occurred.
  • Disposition of the deer carcass will be up to the landowner, unless it has been determined to be a positive test.   Then the deer is property of DNR and they will take possession of it.
  • Samples will be sent to the diagnostic lab every day.
  • If a positive is found the surveillance plans might need to be adjusted.
  • Concern was raised about all the “starter castles” where people in this infected area might own about 4 to 5 acres of land and may not want hunting that close to their homes.   The DNR says most of this concentration is as a result of feeding so when this is banned the deer should eventually begin to scatter.
  • Penalties for feeding the deer might be just a warning this first year, unless they are determined egregious—then it might warrant a citation.
  • DNR estimates the costs for conducting this short-term effort will be $200,000 on the low end and possibly up to $400,000 on the high end.  Of course, this is all subject to change depending on how things go with the process.
  • Because the DNR does not know what the disease will do to a deer herd in the long-term that is why it is so critical not to let it get established here in Minnesota.  Dealing with this is a generational issue meaning it is important to eradicate it on the front end so the disease is not devastatingly out of control 50 or 100 years from now.

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Petition Afoot To Reverse Minnesota’s Antler Point Restriction Requirement

Several weeks back I was contacted by an individual named Rod Sommerfield who was quite upset with what he saw during Minnesota’s first hunting season contending with the new antler point restriction requirement in zone 3 last fall.   Sommerfield proceeded to articulate to me several experiences he witnessed that were unfortunate occurrences of the new rule—mostly it was incidents of wanton waste caused by hunters violating the burdensome new rule and then not wanting to be in possession of an illegal deer.


To many deer hunters what grows above the ears should not be counted to determine a legal buck.

Bottom line was this particular hunter had seen enough and for the sake of a healthy hunting experience he has started a grassroots campaign to get this trophy-focused management requirement removed from the Minnesota hunting regulations.   Sommerfield, like many other hunters in Minnesota, simply believes the antler point restriction system does not mesh well with how the majority of hunters traditionally enjoy the firearms deer hunting experience.

To be quite honest, I tend to agree and have thus subsequently lent my support to the cause.   My rationale for opposing APR is not necessarily well outlined in the verbiage for how the petition reads, but the end result of getting this onerous requirement stricken from the regulation books needs to be done soon before this poorly executed wildlife management concept is allowed to spread statewide like an out-of-control cancer.

Oh yeah, I know these sort of sentiments were experienced when the principle was first introduced out in Pennsylvania, too…and I know over time most Keystone State hunters have moderated their negative thinking about APR.   Be that as it may, I still don’t like APR and I plan to extensively outline my reasons why in a future blog posting (likely after I return from the SHOT Show).

In the meantime, I offer up this quick post to:  1) share with you the effort that is underway via petition; and 2) start generating some discussion over the positives/negatives of continuing using an antler point restriction system here in Minnesota.

To download the petition please CLICK HERE.

For additional information regarding the petition, please contact:

Rod Sommerfield
(Phone: 507/696-3246)

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.