Legislature OKs new rules for CWD control
St. Paul New, broad-ranging rules addressing the threat of chronic wasting disease in deer and elk in the state both wild and farm-reared have been approved by the state Legislature.
For hunters, the legislation regulates how big game harvested elsewhere returns to Minnesota. It also sets aside funding for testing for the always-fatal brain disease within the state. So far, CWD only has been identified in farmed elk. The legislation, yet to be signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also gives the DNR commissioner a wide range of abilities to address the disease should it be found in the wild herd from feeding restrictions to emergency culling of deer, by "non-standard" means or times.
The ramifications of the legislation are even more far-reaching for those in the farmed cervid industry. Foremost, it brings regulatory authority of all cervid farms to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Formerly, the DNR had oversight of "game farms," most of which had exclusively white-tailed deer. That adds an estimated 360 operations of varying size to the BAH's existing 350 elk and deer farms.
Wayne Edgerton, DNR agriculture policy director, said oversight of game farms shift to the BAH on Jan. 1, 2004. "The main thing is this covers all cervidae now," he said.
Furthermore, participation in a CWD monitoring program is now mandatory for such operations. To handle these new and expanded responsibilities, the BAH received funding via the "lottery in-lieu" account (from state lottery revenues) and a fee schedule for cervid farmers.
The legislation states $400,000 for the next two years would come from the lottery proceeds. Producers would contribute $10 per animal up to $100, annually.
Edgerton said the biggest thing for Minnesota hunters would be the rule on returning carcasses to the state. "This will mean changes for some folks, but there are a lot of hunters who already do it this way," he said.
In essence, hunters may not return brain or spinal tissue of their harvested game to the state. Skull caps must be cleared of brain tissue and carcasses cannot be brought into Minnesota unless the spinal column has been removed.
According to Ed Boggess, DNR Wildlife resource manager, meat can be cut and wrapped, or it can be quartered. However, "You may have to do a little more than you normally do, but it doesn't have to be boneless," he said.
Boggess also said 50 cents from each deer license sold will continue to contribute to an account for emergency deer feeding that also will serve as a source to fund cervidae health initiatives.
Boggess said the department would be discussing with regional and research personnel within the Wildlife Division the level of CWD testing that will occur this fall. He said the department is likely planning an expanded effort. Last fall, nearly 4,500 hunter-harvested deer were tested for CWD with no positive results.
The bill contains the following requirements for cervid farmers:
Mandatory testing of all cervids that die on the farm or are slaughtered;
New fencing requirements;
The clear marking of each animal on the farm;
Records of movement of all farmed cervids to other locations;
Restrictions on import of cervids from other states.