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Dokken: Deer feeding bans take effect Dec. 30 in several northwest Minnesota counties

Nothing’s yet official, but the positive case near Climax, Minnesota, likely will mean a baiting ban for hunters on the North Dakota side of the river in Unit 2B, which follows the Red River from Fargo north to Grand Forks.

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The deer feeding bans set to take effect Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in several northwest Minnesota counties, are intended to reduce the potential spread of chronic wasting disease.
Contributed / Minnesota DNR
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People who enjoy feeding deer in several northwest Minnesota counties will have to stop as of Thursday, Dec. 30, as part of new restrictions the Department of Natural Resources announced earlier this month to mitigate the potential spread of chronic wasting disease.

The new restrictions result from last spring’s incident in Beltrami County, where CWD was found in a farmed deer herd, and the surprise finding of CWD in a whitetail buck shot during the October youth deer season southwest of Climax, Minnesota, in Deer Permit Area 262.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken

CWD, a brain disease fatal to deer, elk and moose, had never been found or even suspected in the area near Climax. That forced a scramble by the DNR and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to set up last-minute testing sites on their respective sides of the Red River just days before the firearms deer season.

So far, only the one deer, a whitetail buck that appeared healthy, has tested positive on either side of the Red River, but that was enough to trigger the upcoming ban in Minnesota.

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Deer feeding is a popular winter activity for many property owners and wildlife watchers, and the new ban undoubtedly will be a hard pill to swallow for some people. Still, it’s a necessary step, since concentrating deer in areas such as feeding sites increases the risk of CWD transmission, DNR officials say.

“These are precautionary but necessary measures,” Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program supervisor for the Minnesota DNR, said in a recent news release. “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.”

Deer feed includes grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer.

Because the case near Climax involved a wild deer, the DNR is adding 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 will not be allowed as of Dec. 30.

Meanwhile, the farmed deer incident in Beltrami County triggers a less-restrictive deer feeding ban in Beltrami, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods and Roseau counties, where attractants will still be allowed.

How DNR conservation officers handle violations to the upcoming feeding ban will likely vary by case and by officer, but there has been ample time and publicity surrounding the restrictions, so they shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who traditionally feeds deer in the winter.

Bottom line: Stop if you’re in any of the affected counties.

“We’ve had some guys that had to go out and pick up some hay bales they put out in their deer woods,” said DNR conservation officer Jeremy Woinarowicz, who serves the Thief River Falls West station. “Other guys have called me and asked if they should put out corn or sugar beets now, and I said, ‘Well you’ve got to pick them up (before Jan. 1),’ so they decided against that route, as well.”

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Potential N.D. impact

Nothing’s yet official, but the positive case near Climax likely will mean a baiting ban for hunters on the North Dakota side of the river in Unit 2B, which follows the Red River from Fargo north to Grand Forks.

That’s typically the procedure when CWD is found in a part of a neighboring state or province that borders a North Dakota hunting unit, said Casey Anderson, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.

Baiting is illegal in Minnesota and on North Dakota public lands, but it is legal on private land in North Dakota hunting units where CWD hasn’t been documented.

Any baiting ban in Unit 2B would have to be approved by Gov. Doug Burgum when he signs the proclamation of hunting regulations for the 2022 deer season that Game and Fish will submit to him next summer.

“Some of it might depend on what they find (on the Minnesota side of the Red River), but realistically, that’s probably what we’ll suggest to the governor in the proclamation,” Anderson said of a baiting ban in 2B. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet, and we’re really interested in what Minnesota is going to find as they go through this process.”

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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