Minnesota’s biggest fight ever against chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer coincided with a comeback in the state’s overall whitetail population in a story that continues to unfold after more than a year in the headlines.
The good-news resurgence was reflected in hunter success that should boost the state’s 2017 deer harvest past 190,000 for the first time since 2011.
But CWD tainted the landscape from Fillmore County, where more new cases in wild deer were discovered recently, to state-regulated captive deer farms in Crow Wing, Meeker and Winona counties. The DNR views infected private herds of deer and poorly operated deer farms as a disease threat to the state’s priceless wild deer population. There’s ongoing friction between the agency and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the chief regulator of farmed deer.
At Mille Lacs this year, dissent and disbelief swelled among the lake’s walleye community as high catch rates once again seemed to defy hard science that says the resource is crashing and needs the protection of temporary fishing bans and catch-and-release limits.
Meanwhile, anglers continued to enjoy the fruits of DNR and tribal walleye management on Upper Red Lake. An angler-friendly walleye trend also continued on Lake Vermilion — where Minnesota this year opened its newest state park.
Southeastern Minnesota stream fishing was good, waterfowl hunters saw more ducks and geese this year and local soil and water conservation offices started to implement a $500 million land set-aside program to restore wetlands and improve water quality in Minnesota’s farming belt. Coupled with new buffer strip legislation to reduce agricultural runoff, the two conservation measures promise to revitalize at least a measure of habitat for aquatic life, waterfowl and pheasants.