Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Initial tests of Aitkin elk herd are negative

Deer license sales down only slightly

By Tim Spielman

Associate Editor

St. Paul The Minnesota Board of Animal Health says 27 elk from
the Aitkin County farm where chronic wasting disease was found more
than a month ago have tested negative for the deadly brain
disease.

Dr. Kristine Petrini, assistant director for the BAH said Monday
that the remaining 21 animals also will be euthanized and their
brain stems tested at an Ames, Iowa testing facility.

Two other Minnesota elk farms one in Stearns County, one in
Benton County where the Aitkin County animal had spent time remain
under quarantine, she said.

The owners “cannot move animals on or off the farm,” Petrini
said. “They’re currently being investigated to determine if herds
will be tested or not.” If the evaluation proves there’s a “high
risk,” funding may be available from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to purchase, euthanize, and test those animals as well.
The current evaluation will determine the level of risk on those
farms, which hold 33 and 22 elk, respectively.

Blood samples from the euthanized elk are being used as part of
a validation study of a “live animal” test under development in
Colorado (see story, Page 1).

DNR officials said Monday that no new test results from wild
deer culled in Aitkin County had been received. To date, 97 deer in
a nine-mile square around the Aitkin elk farm had been killed by
DNR sharpshooters, private landowners via permit, archery hunters,
and car kills for testing.

“We said we wanted to test between 50 and 100, so we’re there,”
said Mike DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research manager. The DNR intends
to test 5,000 to 6,000 hunter harvested deer from across the state
during the upcoming firearms season.

Deer license sales down slightly, should rebound

While the discovery of chronic wasting disease on a Minnesota
elk farm has generated plenty of discussion about the safety of
consuming wild venison, deer hunting license sales in the state
indicate hunters remain at ease about their sport.

Archery licenses for deer hunting were nearly identical to last
year, when 31,832 licenses were sold, according to Tom Keefe, DNR
License Bureau supervisor.

In a recent comparison, Keefe said firearms license sales were
down compared to last year, but followed a three-year trend
downward in weeks leading up to the firearms opener.

There are two periods when sales jump, he says just before
antlerless permit applications are due, and just prior to the
opener. As of Sept. 13, firearms deer hunting license sales were
just below 200,000, down from about 226,000 last year. But there
may be an explanation, and it has nothing to do with CWD in captive
cervids, Keefe says.

“I believe it’s because there are more intensive harvest permits
available,” he said. While there’s a deadline for applying for an
antlerless permit (thereby purchasing a license), intensive harvest
permits are for areas of heavy deer populations and can be
purchased at a later date (along with a regular firearms license)
at half the price of the regular license.

Deer farm testing

Volunteer testing of farmed deer in Minnesota has accelerated
since CWD became front page news in Minnesota.

Dr. Chris DePerno of the DNR Wildlife Section in Madelia said
requests for CWD testing from deer farms eliminating or thinning
their herds in recent months has increased.

He estimated that he and his staff have processed “maybe 50”
deer heads and sent them for testing in Ames, Iowa, and the
University of Minnesota. The testing included deer from a farmer
near New London who thinned 18 animals out of his herd this past
weekend, Deperno said. None of those animals, nor any others that
have been tested, have been suspected nor confirmed to be infected
with CWD.

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