St. Paul — The DNR on Monday issued an emergency rule that temporarily prohibits the movement of all farmed white-tailed deer within the state.
The agency says that the rule, which went immediately into effect, is a temporary, emergency action to reduce further spread of chronic wasting disease and protect Minnesota’s wild deer. The action is in response to the recent discovery of CWD in a farmed white-tailed deer in Douglas County in western Minnesota. The emergency rule is in effect for 30 days and applies only to white-tailed deer, not other farmed deer or elk.
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health earlier this month confirmed an 8-year-old white-tailed doe tested positive for the fatal deer disease in a small, two-deer hobbyist herd. The discovery in Douglas County has connections to other Minnesota deer farms, and the DNR says the state needs time to investigate locations that either provided deer to, or received deer from, the hobby farm.
“We don’t take this action lightly,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “The DNR is committed to proactively addressing CWD and doing everything we can do to protect Minnesota’s deer herd. The Douglas County positive, with its connections to other farms in the state, poses a risk to wild deer that requires emergency action.”
Earlier this month, the five-member state Board of Animal Health voted unanimously against establishing the entire state as a disease-control zone. Creating that zone would temporarily also have halted all commercial movement of cervids in the state. Dr. Beth Thompson, the state veterinarian who serves as executive director of the board, had brought the proposal before the board because the two deer in the Douglas County herd were linked to other herd’s around the state.
During a telephone press conference on Monday, Strommen said DNR had been consulting with BAH, the state Department of Agriculture, and the governor’s office about the emergency rule.
Strommen said the distinction between what the BAH rejected on Dec. 11 and Monday’s DNR action is that BAH considered a statewide disease management zone, while the DNR is simply putting a movement ban in place.
She said the DNR said it is working closely with BAH on investigating the Douglas County discovery and tracing the farm’s connections to other locations in the state.
Asked if her agency would support a permanent ban on the movement of farmed cervids, Strommen said saying that was a decision for state Legislature.
The DNR is already monitoring for CWD in disease management zones in southeastern and north-central Minnesota where the disease has been detected in both captive and wild deer, as well as in a CWD surveillance area in central Minnesota where it has been found in captive deer.
Since CWD was first detected in Minnesota in 2002, the DNR has tested more than 90,000 wild deer in the state. To date, 73 wild deer have been confirmed positive for CWD in Minnesota.
Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said he strongly supported the DNR’s approach “to protect wildlife in spite of inaction by Board of Animal Health.” A permanent rule or law is now needed, he added.
For more details on this story, see next week’s Outdoor News.