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.