Hundreds of deer at Iowa farm test positive for CWD

St. Paul — More than 280 captive deer at a farm in Iowa’s Cerro Gordo County – just south of the Minnesota border – have tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced last week that 284 of 356 quarantined deer – nearly 80 percent – tested positive. They were killed in August as part of a scheduled culling. Iowa officials say there’s no indication that CWD is spreading in the state, but they will increase disease testing of harvested deer in the area around the farm. 

“We don’t know fully what it means,” said Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the Iowa DNR. “But we know we need to increase our efforts to try to determine what it means.”
Mason City, the county seat of Cerro Gordo County, is less than 40 miles from the Minnesota border.

In 2012, a white-tailed deer killed at a hunting preserve in southeastern Iowa tested positive for CWD. That animal had just been introduced to the hunting preserve from the captive facility in Cerro Gordo County. The captive herd immediately was quarantined, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and was depopulated at the end of August this year.

The area where the herd was kept will remain quarantined with a fence for five years as part of an agreement with the animals’ owners to help disinfect any trace of the disease. Dustin Vande Hoef, a spokesman for Iowa’s agriculture department, said the measure is intended to try to protect wild deer in the area of the farm.

“We became aware of this,” he said. “We quarantined the facility and then entered into a depopulation agreement with the owners. That’s been our whole approach to try to make sure this herd stays contained.”

The owners of the captive herd have or will receive $917,100 in indemnity funding from the United States Department of Agriculture as compensation for the 356 captive deer that were depopulated. 

Iowa operates a voluntary CWD program for farms that sell live animals, according to the state’s agriculture department.  There are 145 farms that participate in the program; the one where the diseased animals were depopulated had left the program prior to the discovery of the disease.

According to the DNR’s Baskins, the 284 animals is the largest number of captive deer with the disease recorded in the state. Before that, just a handful of captive animals had tested positive.

One wild deer has tested positive for CWD in Iowa. Officials announced in April of this year that a CWD-positive animal had been discovered in Allamakee County, which is the northeasternmost county in Iowa, and which shares a border with Minnesota.

For that reason, Minnesota wildlife officials plan to test deer that hunters kill in permit areas 348 and 349 in the southeastern part of the state. The goal, according to the DNR, is to collect and test a minimum of 450 samples total between both permit areas.

To date, one wild deer has tested positive for CWD in Minnesota.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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