Federal sharpshooters will be hired by the state of Minnesota to kill wild deer in a concentrated area around Lanesboro and Preston, Minn., where eight chronic wasting disease-infected (CWD) whitetails have been discovered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s top big game researcher, said Tuesday the sharpshooters could go to work in the area by the third week in February to help eliminate a vexing outbreak of CWD.
In a herd reduction strategy kicked off in late December to respond to a single case of CWD, the DNR has marshaled area hunters and landowners for a supplemental harvest inside a zone that occupies most of Fillmore County. The animals must be dead to undergo testing for CWD, and two additional positive test results were disclosed Tuesday by the DNR. One of the two deer was shot by a hunter and one was found dead.
Cornicelli said seven of the CWD-infected deer were discovered in close proximity to each other between Preston and Lanesboro. The eighth CWD-positive deer, discovered previously, was shot 5 to 10 miles north, near the village of Bucksnort.
“It’s beginning to look like that one walked north’’ from the infected area, Cornicelli said.
The DNR set out to collect samples from 900 mature whitetails inside the disease management zone. On Tuesday, with the recent pace of the harvest lagging, the total kill for testing purposes stood at 776 deer. Sharpshooters should help bring the count to 900 once landowner shooting permits expire on Feb. 12, Cornicelli said.
He said the state’s contract with USDA sharpshooters will call for deep penetration in proximity to the disease cluster. The plan is to remove CWD-infected deer and thin the herd of additional healthy deer to stop the fatal brain disease from spreading.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans, but the health agency says people should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD.