Deer movement study begins in southeastern Minnesota’s CWD zone; feeding ban continues in 16 Minn. counties
A Minnesota DNR research project that will examine how deer move across the landscape in southeastern Minnesota’s chronic wasting disease management area is scheduled to begin on Monday, March 12, the DNR said in a news release Monday, March 12.
“The data from this study will help us estimate male and female dispersal patterns as they relate to disease transmission and build movement models,” said Dr. Chris Jennelle, a DNR research scientist. “We can use that information to predict likely pathways of potential chronic wasting disease spread and also estimate causes of death for use in population models.”
The DNR’s private contractor plans to capture 115 deer of varying age and sex classes and fit them with GPS radio collars. Daily movements will be tracked to determine seasonal movements and dispersal pathways. Deer dispersal occurs when juvenile deer come of age and move away from their mothers. Exactly when that occurs during the May-to-July time frame, and how far they go, can vary.
Deer will be captured in nets launched from a helicopter. Captures will occur on private land where the DNR has obtained landowner permission. Deer also may be captured on public land. All captures will occur on and around the periphery of the disease management zone, also known as deer permit area 603.
DNR staff will keep participating landowners updated on how GPS collared deer use the local landscape.
DNR scientists in Minnesota hope to share movement data across the upper Midwest with colleagues in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. With that information in hand, research and management strategies can be developed that will have a better chance of slowing disease spread and benefiting the long-term viability of deer populations, the release said.
Also, a deer feeding ban remains in effect for 16 counties located in central, north-central and southeastern Minnesota, the DNR said in the same release.
Feeding bans in central and north-central Minnesota are precautionary and were put in place surrounding two farms where multiple captive deer were infected with CWD. Testing of hunter-harvested deer in these areas in fall 2017 did not detect CWD in the wild, but surveillance efforts will continue until the disease is not detected for three consecutive years. The bans remain in place through February 2019.
Central Minnesota counties affected by the ban are Kandiyohi; McCloud; Meeker; Stearns; Wright; and the portion of Renville County north of U.S. Highway 212.
North-central Minnesota counties affected are Aitkin; Crow Wing; Morrison; the portion of Cass County south of Minnesota highways 34 and 200; and the portion of Mille Lacs County north of County Road 11.
In the southeastern Minnesota counties of Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted, Mower and Winona, a ban on deer feeding and deer attractants remains in effect through Wednesday, June 27, and will likely be extended because of ongoing disease issues. In Fillmore County, 17 wild deer have been found to have CWD since fall 2016, when the disease was first discovered near Preston.
Feed includes corn, grain, salt, mineral blocks, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer. People who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that prevents access by deer, or place the food at least 6 feet above the ground.
Food placed as a result of normal agricultural practices is generally exempted from the feeding ban, but cattle operators should take steps that minimize contact between deer and cattle.
One of the probable mechanisms for CWD spread among deer is over a food or attractant source that concentrates animals, the DNR said in the release. Feeding bans are intended to reduce the number of areas where deer can come into close contact, either directly or indirectly.
More information about CWD can be found at mndnr.gov/cwd.