Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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No CWD in first round of testing

Aitkin deer shoot continues

By Shawn Perich

Field Editor

St. Paul The Minnesota DNR reported on Tuesday that the first
batch of tests for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer
culled from the Aitkin area have yielded no positive tests.

The DNR received official results Tuesday from 10 deer culled in
the 9-square-mile area surrounding the farm where Minnesota’s first
case of CWD was reported in a captive elk in late August.

More test results are expected in coming days. Additional
samples will be submitted as deer are culled. Deer submitted for
testing were taken by DNR shooting teams as well as archery
hunters.

“Obviously this is good news and we’re hopeful,” said Mike
DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research manager. “But there is still a
large number of samples to be tested.”

Samples from culled deer and deer submitted by archery hunters
were processed at the DNR Farmland Wildlife Research Center in
Madelia and sent to a USDA-certified laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

The DNR is now in the third week of killing deer in the area
south of Aitkin to test for CWD. The always fatal affliction was
discovered in one elk on an elk farm there.

During the first two weeks of the deer shooting operation, a
total of 68 samples were collected. DNR shooting teams killed 62
deer and additional samples were collected from two car kills and
four archery kills.

During the first week of the operation, which is conducted on
weekdays, 10 shooting teams consisting of two individuals, a
conservation officer and a wildlife staffer, went afield. During
the second week, the DNR fielded seven shooting teams. In the third
week, six shooters are working as a group. The DNR also has issued
shooting permits to landowners within the surveillance zone who
have volunteered to help collect samples.

“As we expected, deer are becoming more difficult to take,” said
Dave Schad, incident manager in Aitkin. “To get the largest sample
possible, we decided to ask several landowners for their
assistance.”

Surviving deer in the surveillance zone have become increasingly
wary, especially in regard to vehicles and lights. DNR shooters are
trying night vision goggles made available by the National Guard to
look for deer after dark.

“This is a long way from a hunt,” Schad said.

Trace-backs determined the CWD-infected elk on the Aitkin-area
herd stayed at two other Minnesota farms. Elk on those farms have
not been killed and tested for CWD. Due to the number of elk
farming operations in that area, encompassed by Antlerless Permit
Area 415, the DNR was already planning to collect samples from deer
killed by hunters. (For more details on the permit areas where the
DNR will be testing around the state, see special CWD section, Page
17.)

So far, within the surveillance area, the shooters have killed
two adult bucks (21/2 years or older), 25 adult does, 14 yearling
bucks, eight yearling does, nine buck fawns, and four doe fawns.
The agency prefers to collect samples from adult deer, because they
are more likely to show evidence of infection. However, it is
difficult for shooters to determine the age of deer in the
field.

Schad says 55 deer have been taken to local meat processors.
Venison from CWD-free deer is being distributed to interested
landowners and the Second Harvest Food Shelf, thanks to the
assistance of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and Farmers
and Hunters to Feed the Hungry.

Archery hunters in area 154 are encouraged to submit their deer
for CWD testing, provided they identify exactly where the deer was
harvested. Archers in this permit area who take an adult deer and
are willing to submit it for testing should, after registering
their deer, remove the head with about six inches of the neck still
attached and bring it to the Aitkin Area Wildlife office as soon as
possible.

If the head cannot be brought in right away it should be
refrigerated or put on ice in a cooler until it can be brought to
the Aitkin office. Hunters can contact the Aitkin office to make
arrangements to drop off a sample at (218) 927-6915.

Lueck herd

State authorities announced plans to kill the 48 remaining elk
from a farm where CWD was discovered in an animal last month.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay the farmer, Clayton
Lueck, for the elk. Under current law, when an elk herd is to be
destroyed, the owner of the farm is eligible for up to $3,000 per
animal.

After the elk are killed, tissue samples will be taken from
their brain stems and analyzed for the disease. The carcasses will
be held at the University of Minnesota until CWD testing is
completed. Animals that don’t have the disease will be buried while
those that have it will be incinerated.

Lueck’s herd has been quarantined since chronic wasting disease
was found in the single bull elk. That animal had been on the Lueck
farm for about two years. The incubation period for CWD is thought
to be at least 17 months.

There are 288 farmed elk and/or deer herds in Minnesota
registered with the Board of Animal Health. Of those, 202,
including Lueck’s, are voluntarily enrolled in a CWD monitoring
program through the Board of Animal Health. Under that program, any
animal that dies or is slaughtered is tested for the disease.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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