MN: DNR tests 1,180 deer and no CWD

St. Paul – It’s official: None of the deer killed in the Pine
Island area during the past two months tested positive for chronic
wasting disease.

After the DNR announced in late January that an archer-killed doe
shot at the end of November had tested positive for CWD, it set in
motion a plan to kill and test hundreds more animals.

Tests on the last animals came back last Thursday. In all, 1,180
deer were tested. Of those, 752 were yearlings or older. All
animals were killed within a 10-mile radius of where the archer
killed the positive deer.

Of the deer killed and tested since the beginning of February,
federal sharpshooters killed 602, landowners killed 491, and 87
died after a vehicle collision or other means.

“We looked hard and found nothing,” said Lou Cornicelli, big game
program coordinator for the DNR, who also is overseeing the
agency’s CWD response. “This suggests the infection rate is low,
which is very good news.”

The agency, based on surveys before shooting began, estimated there
were 6,500 deer in the CWD surveillance area, which runs from
Wanamingo, Zumbrota and Zumbro Falls southward to Kasson, Byron and
Rochester.

The DNR’s original goal was to sample 900 yearling and adult deer.
While it didn’t achieve that goal, it’s less critical because there
were not any positives, Cornicelli said.

“It certainly looks like we caught (the disease) on the front
edge,” he said.

Agency officials will be talking soon about what the fall season in
the CWD area will look like. Given no positives were found this
winter, the area itself probably will be similar in size to the
winter surveillance area.

“There is probably no immediate need to make that zone any bigger,”
Cornicelli said.

It’s unclear how many samples the agency will want to test, though
the goal is to get as many as possible and not use federal
sharpshooters again.

There likely will be increased bag limits in the area, as well as
disease management permits. It’s also possible there could be a
23-day season, similar to what’s in place in the metro area. A late
hunting season also is possible.

Feeding ban still in place

As part of the fight against CWD, the DNR on Feb. 14 instituted a
deer-feeding ban covering Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted, and Wabasha
counties. Even though the shooting has ended until the fall, the
feeding ban remains in place.

“It will be in effect for quite some time,” Cornicelli said.

When the agency put the ban in place, it also did aerial surveys
and documented places where deer feeding was occurring.

Officials met with all of the landowners who were feeding and
informed them of the ban and explained why it was in place. Since
then, there have been “no issues with continual feeding,” said
Capt. Greg Salo, Central Region Enforcement manager for the
DNR.

“Everybody down there has been exceptional,” he said. “We couldn’t
have done what we did without their help.”

Conservation officers didn’t write any tickets for violation of the
feeding ban, Salo said.

Feeding tends to subside in the summer, but it typically ramps up
again in the fall. The DNR may fly monitoring flights at some point
to ensure nobody is feeding deer, Salo said.

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