UPDATE – Bizarre case in CWD zone: Who ear-tagged this buck?

DNR Wildlife Research Manager Lou Cornicelli has asked Minnesota hunters for any information to help solve a strange white-tailed deer case in southeast Minnesota.

Cornicelli sent an email to state outdoor writers this morning with the attached pictures you see here of a white-tailed buck sporting red tags in each ear.

The tags individually say “Don’t” and “Miss.”

“We have no idea where this deer came from and I’m hoping your outlets can help us figure that out,” Cornicelli wrote. In a follow-up conversation, he said, “This is the first deer that I’ve ever seen tagged like this before.”

A hunter harvested the buck, which appears to be a 10-pointer, on Nov. 26 in CWD Management Area 603 near Lanesboro in Fillmore County.

Other than the ear tags, there are no other numbers on the tags or any other identifying information.

Cornicelli said the deer has been seen on trail cameras for more than a year, although the full tag couldn’t be read, and the agency does not know the origin of the deer. The holes where someone attached the tags appeared well-healed, so they’d apparently been in place for some time.

The DNR is testing the deer for chronic wasting disease, and expects results back by Friday, Dec. 1.

In a follow-up interview Tuesday morning, Cornicelli told me the agency wants to know if a domestic deer producer released the animal, if it escaped from a domestic facility, or if someone captured and drugged a wild whitetail.

It’s illegal (and very challenging) to possess a wild deer – even for a short time – to tag it. And it’s also illegal to release farmed cervidae into the wild.

Rushford-area Conservation Officer Mitch Boyum took the call, Cornicelli said, and local hunters were aware of the buck thanks to the trail cam activity. Many knew to shoot it if the opportunity presented itself.

“We want all ear-tagged deer on the wild landscape dead because they present a disease risk in a variety of ways,” Cornicelli said. “CWD is associated with captive deer farms, so if a deer is outside a fence, that’s a risk. Just like dumping carcasses, these are all risk factors we’re trying to eliminate.”

At first glance, the tags might prompt a chuckle, but Cornicelli (and this scribe) don’t find it amusing, especially given that the buck was shot in the heart of the state’s CWD zone.

“I don’t understand the point of this. It’s not funny at all,” Cornicelli said. “This is a serious issue. We’re spending a lot of money to try and keep the deer herd healthy in the state. I’m not sure what kind of person would find humor in this.

“It’s very concerning – doubly so that it’s in the CWD core area,” he said. “We’re hoping somebody knows something.”

Individuals with information on the case should call the Minnesota Turn in Poachers (TIP) line at 1-800-652-9093. That information will be anonymously relayed to the appropriate staff.

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