MN: Shooting to start in CWD area

St. Paul – Landowners in the area where a wild deer tested
positive for chronic wasting disease likely will begin shooting
animals as early as this week.

As that effort begins, the DNR also will consider other methods by
which animals can be killed and tested for CWD.

“We’re going to be looking at some sort of mechanism to get the
public involved if we can,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR big game
program coordinator who also is leading the agency’s CWD response.
“We don’t know quite how we are going to do that yet.”

The agency has been rushing to respond to the confirmation that an
“older” doe killed last fall by an archery hunter near Pine Island
is the state’s first wild deer to test positive for CWD. A federal
laboratory confirmed Jan. 25 that the deer had the disease.

But preliminary tests before that indicated the animal had the
disease, so the agency actually initiated its CWD response plan
earlier.

It began flying aerial surveys with a fixed-wing aircraft in the
Pine Island area on Saturday, Jan. 22, and helicopter surveys
shortly thereafter. As of earlier this week, the fixed-wing survey
was two hours from completion, and the helicopter survey was about
60 percent complete.

The fixed-wing survey helps officials get an idea of deer
distribution, while the helicopter survey helps them get a handle
on actual deer numbers in the area, which is composed of nearly all
private land.

“We’ll have a better handle by the end of the week of what our deer
numbers are and what our surveillance goal is going to be,”
Cornicelli said.

A specific sampling goal had not been determined earlier this week,
but some combination of landowners, sharpshooters, and hunters
likely will be asked to kill “hundreds” of deer, he said.

Deer seem to be congregated around rivers and woodlots. There’s an
average of about 15 deer per square mile, though the number of deer
on individual plots ranges from zero to 150.

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

While several landowners in the area already had asked for shooting
permits, area DNR staff were set to begin contacting landowners on
Wednesday. Those who take permits could begin shooting deer by the
end of the week. There will be no limit to the number of deer
landowners can shoot.

“We’ll start getting samples through the weekend and then go from
there,” Cornicelli said.

All deer will be tested for CWD and the meat will be donated.

As officials solidify sampling goals, they’ll look at other ways to
take additional animals.

Additionally, they will create a CWD management zone and put in
place a ban on recreational feeding. The boundaries have not yet
been determined.

There is quite a bit of deer feeding going on in the area,
Cornicelli said. Through aerial surveys, officials are aware of as
many as 38 feeding sites that range “from big operations to people
throwing corn in their backyard,” he said.

Once winter breaks and the snow melts, deer will scatter. As a
result, officials face a short timeline in trying to determine
CWD’s prevalence in the area.

“We only really have until mid-March to get a handle on our
prevalence,” Cornicelli said. “Anything we do is going to have to
be fairly compressed.”

Categories: Hunting News

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