The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will conduct precautionary surveillance this fall for chronic wasting disease in Beltrami County after a domestic deer was confirmed positive for the disease, which is fatal to deer, elk and moose.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Wednesday morning, April 7, said a 3-year-old whitetail doe on a Beltrami County farm had tested positive for CWD by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

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The 77-head herd was quarantined in October 2020 as part of the Board of Animal Health’s investigation of a previously reported CWD detection in Houston County of southeast Minnesota. The Beltrami County herd owner purchased 11 animals from the Winona County herd also identified in the investigation so the deer were considered CWD-exposed, which led to the quarantine, according to a BAH news release.

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“This detection is disheartening,” said Dr. Linda Glaser, assistant director of the state Board of Animal Health. “Our investigation and tracing led us to find this positive animal. However, CWD continues to negatively impact Minnesota farmed cervid producers, and the tools we have to control this disease are so limited. The Board will work with the USDA to get this herd depopulated to stop any spread of disease from the herd.”

The CWD case is a first for Beltrami County and the farthest north in Minnesota that the disease has been documented in wild deer, based on a DNR map showing CWD cases around the state. Minnesota has documented 114 cases of CWD in wild deer since the state’s first confirmed report in 2010, DNR statistics show.

Because of the new case, the DNR, which manages and regulates the state’s wild deer herd, will begin CWD surveillance efforts in Beltrami County with this fall’s hunting season that will last at least three years.

John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, said Wednesday morning that there’s not much more to update on the case, “other than we have another CWD area that will need to have surveillance efforts and feeding bans initiated in the coming days.

“We will begin a planning phase now.”

The DNR encourages Beltrami County residents to report observations of sick wild deer to their local wildlife office by calling (218) 732-8452. The DNR also will implement a deer feeding ban in Beltrami and surrounding counties.

As per the BAH news release, the Beltrami County owner requested federal indemnity to receive compensation for the CWD-exposed animals, which were appraised by the USDA in March. USDA officials reported three of the 11 exposed animals had recently died, and they collected CWD samples from two of them for testing; one of those animals was the CWD-positive doe. The third deer was too decomposed to collect a sample. All carcass remains were taken to the University of Minnesota for safe disposal.

CWD is a disease of the deer and elk family caused by prions, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine, and other fluids or tissues. CWD is not known to naturally occur in other animals. The disease is fatal in deer and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. Consuming meat from a CWD positive animal is not advised.

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