MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota wildlife officials have found the state’s first probable case of chronic wasting disease in a wild deer, which was shot near the southeastern town of Pine Island, the Department of Natural Resources announced Friday.

It was one of 524 deer tested during the fall hunting season in the Pine Island area, northwest of Rochester, the DNR said. The agency expects to get confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, next week but is already moving ahead with a response plan developed several years ago.

Officials said there’s no evidence that CWD can spread to humans, nor is it known to affect livestock such as cattle. But the disease is fatal to deer, elk and moose, and experts recommend against eating meat from an infected animal.

Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s big game coordinator, said they hope it’s an isolated case and that a fast response can stop it from spreading through the state’s deer herd.

Still, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the discovery has “serious implications.” He noted that Minnesota has nearly half a million deer hunters, and that deer hunting has a large impact on the state’s economy.

Researchers don’t know exactly how CWD is spread, though they think it passes from animal to animal through feces, urine or saliva, and that deer can catch it from contaminated soil. It’s caused by abnormal proteins called prions, not bacteria or viruses.

The disease causes brain degeneration and is always fatal. Symptoms can include a drooping head or ears, poor physical condition, tremors and stumbling. The hunter told DNR officials his deer seemed thin but that it behaved normally.

Cornicelli said the DNR will soon conduct aerial surveys to determine the deer population in the Pine Island area, designate a CWD management zone, get more samples from other deer in the area and ban the feeding of wild deer in the zone.

Officials said they need more data before they decide whether to reduce the deer population in the area. To get the samples, the DNR may conduct a special public hunt this winter, issue permits to landowners or use sharpshooters. One complication is that nearly all the land in the area is privately owned, and the DNR has no authority to go on private land without the owner’s permission.

There are 12 deer or elk farms within a 10-mile radius of where the affected deer was shot, said Paul Anderson, assistant director of the Board of Animal Health. The board will temporarily stop the movement of deer and elk off those farms until the owners can convince the board they’ve put up adequate fencing to keep their herds separated from wild deer.

The infected doe was shot by an archer in late November about 3 miles from where the disease was detected in a captive elk herd near Pine Island in 2008, but Cornicelli said there’s no way to tell if there’s any connection. That herd was destroyed, and the high fences around the property remain up under an agreement between the landowners and the DNR.

Anderson said a few deer have gotten into that enclosure, probably when a gate was accidentally left open, but to his knowledge all were killed. He said test results were pending on three deer shot inside the fence in the last week or two.

There’s also a small cattle herd on the property that’s not considered at risk, Anderson said.

CWD was first detected in Minnesota in 2002 on an elk farm near Aitkin, but tests on more than 32,000 hunter-harvested deer, moose and elk across the state since then have turned up no probable cases in the wild until now.

The disease has been present in a large part of Wisconsin for many years, but the DNR found no cases in 500 samples taken along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border in 2008 or in 2,685 samples in southeastern Minnesota in 2009. Wisconsin’s CWD management zone is about 50 miles from the Minnesota border, but the closest confirmed case there was shot about 150 miles from the probable case here, Cornicelli said.

The hunter who took the deer prefers to remain anonymous, said Ed Boggess, acting director of the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division, who also said very little of the meat has been eaten.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (9)
  1. Mikie says:

    Chronic Wasting = Starvation. But who will give grant $$ to study starvation?
    But…if we call it “chronic wasting” maybe we can get $$$ from the legisature??

    Another gimmick to get $$, just like “global warning”. No substance, just looking for $$$. Nothing but lying government workers, educators, and media allies?

    Sad behavior, but that is how they presumably make a living.

    1. Slim says:

      I am sory, but CWD is a proven ailment and not a normal condition.
      Are you trying to say that it doesn’t exist? Look into the cases in the western US that even included humans contracting it. I have seen the CAT scans and MRIs that make it obvoius, so save your uninformed babble for someone else. This is a serious and legitimate problem!

    2. Ignorance must be bliss says:

      So, is the world flat as well?

  2. Mikie says:

    Serious and legitmate problem? Xrays to boot! How can it possibly be solved?? Drop medicine from helicoptes for the deer?? Who is going to be sure they will eat it??

    I don’t think Its anything but money for “study” and “concerned educators” and more importantly “DNR workers”. Just follow the $$$$. Keep dreaming up some new problem to keep the money coming so the DNR and affiliated friends can get the $$$!!

    Just the latest taxpayer hustle? i think so.

    Simply cash for educated babble. Paid to study problems without any possible hope of solutions!!

    1. Ignorance must be bliss says:

      So we might as well go the moronic way like you have planned and ignore the problem and then it will go away. WOW, how dumb do you have to be to think that? Nothing has ever been changed or fixed by ignoring it. Maybe you should just ignore these stories if you are going to do nothing but complain about it. By the way, I am more than happy to have my tax dollars go to the DNR and I would have to say that most people in MN are as we are a state that loves our outdoors. Might want to think about moving if that bothers you.

  3. Keith Ekstrom says:

    Deer are the most Dangerous animals in American, killing more humans than any other animals. They run in front of cars and motorcycles and kill people. And do millions in car damage. We have exterminated their natural predators. I personally would welcome with open arms any disease that would wipe out most of the deer in MN and WI.

  4. Arbie says:

    Slim, the only known case of Chronic Wasting Disease contracted by humans is the one where the government can’t stop spending!!

  5. Patrick Shull says:

    I have been wondering about the deer north of Duluth for the past 10 years. Everyone of them that I have seen on the side of the road have been very slim and unhealthy looking for a long time. This is not just one or two its herds of 15 plus. Something is messed up with the deer and tons of hunters that don’t eat it donate it to food shelves and or if hunters have extra meat they donate it. This could be very bad all the way around and the DNR is right deer hunting season brings in a lot of money into this state and if hunters find out that they are diseased they won’t go near them because they cant have the meat, so its just wasted money on bullets and tags. I know a lot of hunters that are poor as it is and they want that meat but they won’t waste their money if they can’t eat it.

  6. Thumbody says:

    Wow! I used to exhibit some of the same symptoms of this disease in my “partying” days, Thank God nobody shot me!

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