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No CWD found in Willmar area testing

Submitted/ No chronic wasting disease was detected in more than 11,000 precautionary samples from deer harvested in the north-central, central and southeastern Minnesota, including the Willmar area.

WILLMAR - No chronic wasting disease was detected in more than 11,000 precautionary samples from deer that hunters harvested this fall in north-central, central and southeastern Minnesota, which includes the Willmar area, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"This is good news for Minnesota," said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the DNR. "The results lend confidence that the disease is not spread across the landscape."

In all, 7,813 deer were tested in the north-central area, 2,529 in the central area and 1,149 in the southeastern area outside deer permit area 603, the chronic wasting disease management zone. Researchers still are submitting samples from cooperating taxidermists and final results will updated online at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck as they become available.

Given no deer with chronic wasting disease were found in north-central and central Minnesota, the DNR will narrow surveillance next fall to areas closer to the farms where the disease was detected. A fourth precautionary surveillance area will be added in fall 2018 in Winona County because the disease recently was detected in captive deer there.

Precautionary testing in north-central and central Minnesota became necessary after chronic wasting disease was found in multiple captive deer on farms near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County. It also was conducted in the deer permit areas directly adjacent to southeast Minnesota's deer permit area 603, the only place in Minnesota where the disease is known to exist in wild deer.

Minnesota's response plan calls for testing of wild deer after the disease is detected in either domestic or wild deer. All results from three consecutive years of testing must report chronic wasting disease as not detected before DNR stops looking for the disease.

Three years of testing are necessary because the disease incubates in deer slowly. They can be exposed for as long as 18 months before laboratory tests of lymph node samples can detect the disease.

Proactive surveillance and precautionary testing is a proven strategy that allows the DNR to manage the disease by finding it early and reacting quickly and aggressively to control it. These actions, which were taken in 2005 to successfully combat bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota deer and in 2010 to eliminate a chronic wasting disease infection in wild deer near Pine Island, provide the best opportunity to eliminate disease spread.

Precautionary testing is necessary to detect the disease early. Without early detection, there's nothing to stop the disease from becoming established at a relatively high prevalence and across a large geographic area. At that point, there is no known way to control the disease.

"Overall, hunter cooperation and public support has been tremendous," Cornicelli said. "While there are always challenges when you conduct this type of surveillance effort, it really couldn't have been successful without the cooperation of hunters, taxidermists, landowners and the businesses that allowed us to operate check stations."

Complete information about chronic wasting disease and DNR efforts to keep Minnesota deer healthy are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwd.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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