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DNR to expand deer feeding, attractant bans to several northwest Minnesota counties effective Dec. 30

The October discovery of a CWD-infected wild deer near Climax, Minnesota, along the Minnesota-North Dakota border, adds Clearwater, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake counties to the list of counties where deer feeding and the use of attractants such as salt, minerals and urine is not allowed.

File Minnesota deer photo
Deer react to a person taking their photograph while feeding in an open area in this undated photo. The Department of Natural Resources on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, expanded deer feeding and attractant restrictions to several additional Minnesota counties as part of ongoing efforts to control the spread of chronic wasting disease. The new restrictions take effect Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. Duluth News Tribune / file
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As part of ongoing efforts to control the spread of chronic wasting disease, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will expand deer feeding bans in some areas, and bans on both feeding and attractants in others, to include 44 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

The additional bans, which include several counties in northwest Minnesota, will take effect Thursday, Dec. 30, the DNR said.

The October discovery of a CWD-infected wild deer near Climax, Minnesota, along the North Dakota border, prompted the feeding and attractant ban and adds Clearwater, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake counties to the list of counties where deer feeding and the use of attractants such as salt, minerals and urine is not allowed.

Counties already part of the feeding and attractant ban are Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Olmsted, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Steele, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Washington and Winona.

Meanwhile, the finding of CWD on a deer farm last spring in Beltrami County adds Beltrami, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods and Roseau counties to the list of counties where deer feeding will no longer be allowed. Deer feed includes grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer.

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Counties already part of the deer feeding ban are Carlton, Chisago, Douglas, Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Pope and Stearns.

Feeding bans and attractant bans are part of the DNR’s CWD response plan and necessary because feed and attractants often cause deer to concentrate, the agency said, greatly increasing the risk of deer-to-deer disease transmission. An infectious brain disease, CWD is always fatal to deer, elk and moose.

Brainerd effort to continue

In related news, a newly discovered instance of CWD in the Brainerd Lakes area of north-central Minnesota will result in three more years of sampling and other disease management efforts for that area, the DNR said.

“These are precautionary but necessary measures,” said Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program supervisor for the Minnesota DNR. “Continued sampling allows us to monitor the extent of CWD in the Brainerd area. Expanding the feeding ban around Climax and Bemidji eliminates one layer of controllable risk associated with the concentration of wild deer at food placed by humans.”

In Deer Permit Area 604, one of the 1,234 deer that hunters harvested so far this fall tested positive for CWD, the DNR said. The area, which stretches north from Brainerd to Pine River and eastward to Aitkin, Minnesota, was in its final year of planned CWD surveillance and management because the disease had not been detected there since a wild doe tested positive in 2019.

That initial discovery in wild deer came after testing in 2016 revealed that a deer farm within permit area 604 was infected with CWD.

“Like us, area residents and hunters were optimistic that deer management could return to normal,” Carstensen said. “It’s unfortunate but this discovery resets the clock, and CWD management measures will remain in place through at least the fall of 2024.”

With nearly 15,000 wild deer in the area tested since 2017 and only two positives found, the DNR is confident CWD is not prevalent or widespread in this area’s wild deer population. But continued testing, as well as other efforts to help reduce risks of CWD spread – such as more liberal harvest regulations, carcass movement restrictions and a ban on feeding and attractants – are the best ways to minimize the risk of CWD becoming established in the area.

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Sampling results

The DNR on Monday also shared preliminary results from this fall's CWD sampling efforts across the state. By region, here’s a closer look:

  • Northwest: No CWD detected in the 1,782 deer tested.

  • Climax area: No CWD detected in the 65 deer tested.

  • West central: No CWD detected in the 369 deer tested.

  • Southeast: CWD testing of 4,705 deer revealed 17 new cases of CWD. All deer that tested positive were harvested in locations near areas where the disease was previously detected. Despite the new discoveries, CWD prevalence remains steady and continues to be low – less than 1% – in both areas where the disease appears to be persisting in the wild deer population.

  • North central (Brainerd Lakes area): Of the 1,234 deer tested so far this fall, a single 1½-year-old male tested positive. The infected deer was harvested about 8 miles from the location where the first wild infected deer was detected. Since 2019, this is the only deer that tested positive from all 6,107 deer sampled in this zone.

  • South metro: Testing detected CWD in two of the 1,063 deer sampled. One case was in the northwestern corner of permit area 605. The other was near locations where infected deer were previously detected.

  • East central: No CWD detected in the 1,369 deer tested.

Complete CWD test results , feeding and attractant ban details , CWD management history and hunter information, including how and where to participate in two upcoming December disease management hunts , is available on the DNR website .

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