CWD likely in sixth southeastern MN deer

St. Paul — Confirmation won’t come until later this week, but a sixth white-tailed deer in Fillmore County in southeastern Minnesota likely will test positive for chronic wasting disease.

A hunter killed the adult female during the special hunt that concluded Jan. 15. The deer was killed about a half-mile from where the first positive animals were killed last year.

“Without a doubt, we have a cluster of infection near Preston that we’re going to try to get on top of,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.

Assuming the test comes back positive, it will mean five infected deer – three does and two bucks – were killed in about the same area. The sixth animal – a buck – was killed about 5 miles to the north.

It’s unclear how the animals came to be infected with the always-fatal disease, but “Something happened in that area not too long ago,” Cornicelli said.

During the special hunt, which ran Dec. 31, 2016 through Jan. 15, hunters killed about 900 deer, of which roughly 640 were adults. The DNR still is waiting on test results for about 130 samples.

The agency has distributed about 300 landowner shooting permits, which may be used from Jan. 16 through Feb. 12. The agency’s initial goal had been to collect samples from 900 adult deer, but, “We’re most certainly going to go over that,” Cornicelli said.

At this point, he still believes the only chance to get on top of the disease is to do it right away, before it becomes established.

“This is it,” Cornicelli said. “If we learn down the road that the disease was already established, or we find another cluster 10 miles away, then we start thinking about what the long-term future of the deer population is going to look like.”

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