Poor weather grounds DNR planes in area where CWD-positive deer found

State officials last week announced that a deer in the Pine
Island, Minn., area had preliminarily tested positive for chronic
wasting disease. Further testing has confirmed the female deer
indeed was infected.

It’s the first time in the state a wild deer has been found with
CWD. But even before the official confirmation, DNR officials set
in motion their CWD response plan.

They began an aerial survey with a fixed-wing aircraft on Saturday,
and also flew Sunday afternoon. But as of Wednesday morning, poor
weather had grounded the aircraft since then.

“The cloud deck has been too low in Rochester now for three
straight days,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program
coordinator. He’s also leading the DNR’s CWD response.

The plane will be back in the air as soon as possible, and before
the fixed-wing survey is done, a helicopter likely will be in the
air so officials can get a better handle on deer concentrations in
the area. The surveys will help as they try to determine how big a
new CWD management area needs to be, and how many deer need to be
killed and tested for the disease.

The surveys have shown a number of deer in the area.

“It’s classic high snow-load deer distribution,” Cornicelli said.
“They are in conifer cover, shelter belts, and riparian

The limited surveys also have shown there’s “a fair bit of feeding
going on,” he said. As part of the agency’s response, it will ban
recreational feeding in an area around the spot where the
CWD-positive deer was killed.

By late this week or early next week, DNR officials will begin
making contact with landowners in the Pine Island area who have
concentrations of deer on their property. The first step in
collecting additional deer samples for testing will be to give out
landowner shooting permits.

Other options for obtaining more samples are a special hunting
season, or bringing in sharpshooters.

Given that snow is deep and deer are bunched up, getting at them
shouldn’t be too difficult, as long as landowners are willing to
cooperate, Cornicelli said.

“We don’t have a lot of time before those deer scatter,” he said,
“but we’ve got some time.”

Categories: Joe Albert

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