Seven deer test CWD positive at central Minn. deer farm

PAUL - Seven of the deer at a captive cervid farm in Crow Wing County that was recently depopulated tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

DNR photo Seven of the deer tested from a depopulated cervid farm in Crow Wing County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
  1. PAUL – Seven of the deer at a captive cervid farm in Crow Wing County that was recently depopulated tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

It released results Wednesday from the testing conducted after the farm was depopulated by sharpshooters on April 16. The depopulation was part of an agreement in which the United States Department of Agriculture indemnified the farm owner for the herd.
The 112-acre Trophy Woods Ranch was first known to hold chronic wasting disease-infected deer in 2016, and had registered other positive results since.

A wild deer was found to be infected when the remains were found Jan. 23 north of the site. It was the first case of an infected wild deer in Minnesota outside of the southeastern counties.

The testing at the cervid farm found seven positive deer and 82 in which chronic wasting disease was not detected. There were 13 deer too decomposed to provide successful test results, according to the Board of Animal Health.

Board of Animal Health staff found 20 dead deer in the cervid enclosure in Crow Wing County prior to the depopulation, Dr. Linda Glaser, assistant director of the Board of Animal Health, told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday. Six of the 20 had died because people had been walking around in the fenced area of the ranch to prepare for the depopulation. The other 14 deer died for unknown reasons: They were discovered after the snow melted, making it possible to reach some of the pens, she said.

The cervid owner is required by law to report any dead animals. He will be receiving a notice of violation for failing to report the dead deer, Glaser said. The notice carries no fine.


Along with finding unreported dead deer, the Board of Animal Health workers found that the cervid farmer had brought cattle and bison on to the premises prior to the depopulation. The cattle and bison remain on the premises, where the prions responsible for chronic wasting disease will remain in the environment for years to come.

The cattle and bison could eventually make their way into the human food supply should the owner decide to harvest them for meat.

The agreement with the owner requires he maintains the fenced enclosure to prevent wild deer from entering it for five years. He cannot keep cervids there for five years, but is allowed to maintain other animals there, according to Glaser.

The Board of Animal Health will monitor the site to make sure wild deer cannot enter the enclosure, but it has no authority over the keeping of cattle, bison or other non-cervid animals on the site, Glaser told reporters.

The owner is required to disinfect and sanitize equipment there. Prions are stable to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that for practical purposes, it is impossible to decontaminate equipment exposed to them.

Prions are known to persist in the environment for years. Glaser said it is known that chronic wasting disease prions can persist for at least two years in the environment, and possibly more. She pointed out that prions from scrapies are known to persist for 16 years. She said the five-year ban on cervids on the premises in Crow Wing County is the maximum restriction current law allows.

There is no evidence that chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to humans or cattle. However, some in the scientific community urge adoption of a precautionary principle.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the West Central Tribune in April that the experience with mad cow disease in England showed there is a risk that prions in animals in the food supply can transmit prions to humans.  He also pointed out that while it’s unclear whether chronic wasting disease can be transmitted from deer to cattle, he has seen no evidence to show that it can’t happen.

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