Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Legislature OKs new rules for CWD control

Associate Editor

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.

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