DNR to resume testing deer for bovine TB in northwestern Minnesota

The Department of Natural Resources will begin its fall testing campaign for bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota during the two-day early doe season Saturday and Oct. 11.

The Department of Natural Resources will begin its fall testing campaign for bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota during the two-day early doe season Saturday and Oct. 11.

DNR personnel will staff four deer registration stations from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days within and near Permit Area 101, which includes the bovine TB core area: Grygla Co-op in Grygla, Minn.; Riverfront Station, Wannaska, Minn.; Olson's Skime Store, Skime, Minn.; and Fourtown Store, Fourtown, Minn.

Crews will collect lymph nodes from deer heads as part of the sampling effort.

"It takes five minutes or less to collect a sample," said Dr. Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program coordinator. "This small voluntary time commitment is important because it provides the big picture of what's happening with the health of our deer herd."

Hunters who provide samples will receive a DNR cooperator's patch and also will be eligible to enter a Minnesota Deer Hunters Association raffle for a firearm.


Testing since 2005

A contagious respiratory disease that affects mainly cattle, bovine tuberculosis first was found in a handful cattle herds near Skime in the summer of 2005.

The DNR began testing deer that fall. To date, bovine TB has been confirmed in 12 cattle herds and 26 free-ranging white-tailed deer.

"While we are still finding a few deer with bovine TB, the prevalence of the disease in deer is decreasing," Carstensen said.

Last fall, the DNR sampled nearly 1,250 deer from hunters in northwestern Minnesota, and none of the animals tested positive for bovine TB. A sharpshooting campaign this past winter found two deer infected with the disease within the 164-square mile bovine TB core area. Sharpshooters took about 750 whitetails from the core area, and Carstensen said she was encouraged only two deer tested positive.

"That was good news," she said. "Both deer found infected last winter were 7 years old, adding further support to the theory that bovine TB is not being spread efficiently in the deer herd."

The DNR also plans to staff 23 registration stations Nov. 7-8, the opening weekend of Minnesota's firearms deer season, with select stations continuing to collect samples during the entire first week and second weekend of the hunt.

Carstensen said the goal is to collect 1,800 samples.


"The only way to achieve that number is for hunters to participate in the program," she said.

CWD testing

The DNR this fall also plans to sample deer for chronic wasting disease in southeastern Minnesota along the Wisconsin border and near Rochester. Chronic wasting disease was discovered in Wisconsin in 2002, and a captive elk herd north of Rochester recently tested positive for the disease.

CWD is an infectious neurological disease that occurs in deer, elk and moose and belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs. Chronic wasting disease is progressively fatal and has no known immunity, vaccine or treatment.

The DNR aims to collect 3,000 samples by staffing registration stations during four weekends in November. University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine students will assist the DNR with the surveillance efforts.

The DNR also will continue targeted surveillance, investigating reports of live deer that appear to be sick and obtaining samples if possible. The public is encouraged to report sick deer to their area wildlife office.

The DNR has tested more than 30,000 deer statewide for CWD since 2002, and the disease has not been found in wild deer in Minnesota.

The Centers for Disease Control and other public health officials have concluded there is no link between CWD and any neurological disease in humans.

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