State law enforcement officials are looking for the person or persons who apparently played a prank on deer hunters around Lanesboro, Minn., by dressing up a 10-point buck with large red ear tags that said “Don’t” “Miss.’’
Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said his office also is investigating the oddity as part of its probe into potential sources of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Fillmore County.
The DNR is treating the county as a special disease management zone.
Since late last year — including this year’s hunt — 16 whitetails harvested in the zone have tested positive for CWD. It’s the state’s largest-ever outbreak of CWD in wild deer.
“An individual intentionally releasing deer is a potential source of the infection,” Cornicelli said Tuesday.
The ear-tagged deer — a buck that was more than 3 years old and possibly more than 4 years old — was shot Sunday near Lanesboro by a local hunter. It had been seen on trail cameras in the area dating to August 2016, but no one could ever make out the words on its ear tags. The buck was harvested 4 miles east of the nearest CWD-positive deer by a young, licensed hunter whose name was not released by the DNR.
It’s illegal for anyone to capture a wild deer. It’s also illegal for deer farmers to release captive deer to the wild. Cornicelli said investigators don’t know the origin of the ear-tagged deer and they are asking the public “for any information that may aid in finding the animal’s owner.”
Information can be reported anonymously by calling the Minnesota Turn in Poachers hotline at 1-800-652-9093.
Michelle Carstensen, a DNR wildlife biologist involved in the investigation of CWD in Fillmore County, said the ear-tagged deer appeared to be in good body condition. Tissue samples were extracted for genetic testing and for a CWD check.
The words “Don’t” on one tag and “Miss” on the other tag were hand-scrawled and neither ear tag contained writing on its backside.