For the first time since chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in southeastern Minnesota’s wild deer population, state wildlife officials are calling the outbreak “persistent’’ and revising their management plan.
Ten new cases of the fatal neurological disease and another “suspected’’ case have cropped up this year, including in two male deer located outside the designated outbreak zone that encompasses Fillmore County. Test results are pending on another 1,036 deer harvested this season in the southeastern region.
“It’s clear it’s not going away,’’ said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The admission departs from the DNR’s initial stance taken in 2016 and 2017 that the state’s largest-ever CWD outbreak could possibly be halted.
The campaign to arrest the disease from spreading has combined constant testing of tissue from regionally harvested deer and lots of extra hunting in Fillmore County to thin the local herd.
Cornicelli said the DNR has been working with a local hunting group, Bluffland Whitetails Association, to build support for continued vigilance. He said more cooperation is needed from private landowners who have resisted extra hunting.
For more than a year, the outbreak appeared to be contained to a cluster of deer, mostly around Preston. Now researchers suspect that roaming, infected male deer are starting to carry it from the Preston area home range to other clusters of deer in neighboring counties.
“We’re seeing males radiating out from the center,’’ Cornicelli said.
Badger State updates
Wisconsin’s traditional firearms deer season ended Sunday with an increase in the whitetail harvest. Preliminary data showed 211,430 registrations, up 7 percent from 2017. The southern farmland region posted a 17 percent gain, the strongest of any area in the state.
The harvest increased despite fewer hunters. As of Monday, Wisconsin firearms deer license sales numbered 471,146, down 3.6 percent from 2017. Nonresidents of Wisconsin, including hunters from Minnesota, purchased 53,069 deer licenses this season in the Badger State — about the same as a year ago.