Minnesota is taking a three-pronged approach to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease and keep Minnesota’s wild deer population healthy.
“Whether you’re someone who just likes seeing white-tailed deer or a hunter who looks forward to enjoying venison for dinner, many Minnesotans share the desire for a healthy deer population,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The management actions we’ve built into this fall’s deer hunting regulations are critical for protecting deer now and preserving this resource for future generations.”
First, the DNR is expanding hunting opportunities and bag limits in areas where CWD has been found in wild deer. Harvesting more deer will reduce the possibility of additional disease spread because there will be fewer deer in lower densities.
The second prong is a deer feeding and attractant ban that affects 18 counties in southeastern and north central Minnesota Minnesota starting Sunday, Sept. 1, due to additional discoveries of chronic wasting disease in wild deer last fall and winter and a continued feeding ban in six central Minnesota counties. These restrictions will reduce the potential for close contact between deer. Shared food allows direct deer-to-deer contact. Diseased deer also can contaminate the food even if they are not present when healthy deer come to eat.
The DNR reminds people to check restrictions in their areas and make sure they are doing what they can to prevent congregation of deer, which is a mechanism for disease spread.
“We understand people often enjoy feeding birds or other animals, but this has inherent risks,” said Erik Hildebrand, a DNR wildlife health specialist. “Adhering to the DNR’s restrictions on feeding and attractants is a way that every Minnesotan can help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease by limiting areas where deer are in close contact and thus at higher risk of disease transmission.”
In counties where deer feeding is banned, people need to remove any salt, grains and other food that entices deer. People who feed birds or small mammals need to make sure that deer cannot access the food; for example, keeping feed at least six feet above ground level. In the southeast and north central Minnesota, an attractant ban is also in place, so people must remove any natural or manufactured products that attract deer.
The third aspect of the DNR’s approach to managing CWD is limiting movement of deer carcasses. These measures restrict movement of deer harvested near locations where other hunters have harvested CWD-positive deer. Hunters in southeast and north central Minnesota should be aware of carcass movement restrictions. Details of these restrictions are available online at mndnr.gov/deerimports. The restrictions also do not allow whole carcasses of any deer, elk, moose or caribou harvested outside Minnesota to be brought into Minnesota.
“Our deer hunters are integral to our disease management efforts,” said Barbara Keller, DNR’s big game program leader. “We recognize that these new regulations add another level of planning to deer camp preparation, and we are working to give hunters the information and other resources needed to comply with restrictions. CWD is still a relatively rare disease in our state, and we aim to keep it that way.”
Details about how the DNR manages CWD can be found in its CWD response plan available on the DNR website. Find more information on feeding and attractant bans at mndnr.gov/cwd/feedban.html.