St. Paul Following the discovery of chronic wasting disease in
three Wisconsin deer shot during the 2001 firearms season, the
Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BOAH) has revised restrictions
for farmed cervids deer and elk entering the state.
The BOAH has banned the import of cervids from areas known to be
endemic for CWD, a brain disease that is always fatal for cervids.
For Wisconsin, imports are banned from the counties of Dane, Iowa,
Sauk, Columbia, Juneau, Jefferson, Rock, Green, and Lafayette.
Michigan banned the import of cervids from the entire state of
“We thought long and hard about whether we should ban cervids
from all parts of Wisconsin, but that didn’t seem to make any
sense,” said Dr. Kris Petrini, BOAH assistant director. Instead,
the core area and surrounding counties were selected for the
In order to legally import cervids in Minnesota, farmers must
obtain a permit from the BOAH office, among other things stating
from where the animals are being taken from, Petrini said.
Petrini said all elk must be imported from herds that have been
participating in a state-recognized CWD surveillance program for at
least a year.
In Minnesota, there are about 230 cervid herds registered with
the Board of Animal Health. Of those, about 200 are elk farms. The
remainder are either deer farms or those of the mixed variety.
There also are about 360 white-tailed deer farms that operate under
game farm permits authorized by the DNR.
Until the three free-ranging Wisconsin deer tested positive for
CWD, areas where the disease was found included Western states,
such as Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and more recently, South
Dakota. With CWD present in two border states, Minnesota DNR
officials said testing for the disease will be increased in this
state’s free-ranging herd.
“We’re focusing on things we can to prevent the disease from
coming into the state,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Division of Wildlife
resources manager, who acknowledged that the disease could already
be present here. “We’re going to step up monitoring and
Though biologists in the United States say there are many
unanswered questions about the disease, they say it can exist,
undetected, in an area for a number of years.
Petrini said the BOAH began a voluntary CWD testing program
three years ago and until recently, had only a dozen captive herds
taking part. As of Feb. 19, 2002, she said, that number had
increased to 155, nearly all of which were elk herds.
Since the Board of Animal Health doesn’t have enough field staff
to administer the program, she said accredited veterinarians must
“sign off” on participant herds. Whenever an animal age 16 months
or older in that herd dies, it must be tested for CWD.
Purchases of elk made by participants must be made from herds
that have been subjected to similar CWD testing for the same amount
of time, or longer. And finally, at year-end, all animals that died
or were sold must be accounted for, and if they died, they must
have been submitted for CWD testing.
Both the Minnesota Elk Breeders Association and the Minnesota
Deer Breeders Association are active in the program, Petrini said.
The Elk Breeders would have lobbied for a mandatory program, she
said, though funding to administer the program would be needed if
were it mandatory.
It’s also possible the USDA could expedite plans for uniform CWD
rules and methods to be used by states.
Emergency funds were made available last September by the USDA
to be used for depopulation and disposal of animals, clean-up and
disinfection, establishment of surveillance and certification
programs, testing, and training for producers and
CWD is a transmisible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of deer
and elk. It’s typified by chronic weight loss leading to death. Its
origin and how it’s transmitted are unknown. Transmission is
thought to be animal to animal.