Two more deer suspected of being infected with chronic wasting disease have been found in far southeastern Minnesota, discoveries that could prompt the state to pursue having more deer killed in order to get a better sense of CWD’s prevalence, state conservation officials said Tuesday.

In its effort to fight CWD, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sanctioned a special hunt in Fillmore County that began Dec. 31 to drastically thin the whitetail population around Lanesboro.

The fatal brain disease is contagious among deer, elk and moose, and the DNR’s strategy in the area is to reduce deer contact to stop CWD from spreading. It is not known to affect the health of humans.

Before this latest detection, near Preston, CWD was found in three antlered bucks west of Lanesboro. Until now, the only other wild deer with the disease found in Minnesota was harvested near Pine Island in 2010.

As for whether the DNR will have to sanction additional hunting as part of its CWD strategy, DNR wildlife research manager Lou Cornicelli said, “We won’t make any final decisions until after January 15th, when the special hunt concludes.”

But with the latest discovery, Cornicelli continued, “It’s prudent that we increase our original surveillance goal of sampling 900 adult deer” post-mortem.

A higher surveillance goal, the DNR added, also results in more potentially infected deer being removed from the population, which helps reduce CWD’s spread.

“Our best chance at containing the spread of CWD and hopefully eliminating the disease is to take quick and aggressive action,” Cornicelli said. “Asking landowners and hunters to reduce the deer population helps minimize the spread of disease. Fewer deer means less deer-to-deer contact occurs, lowering the risk of sick deer transmitting CWD to healthy deer.”

Also, a ban on feeding wild deer is in effect that includes all of Fillmore, Houston, Mower, Olmsted and Winona counties.

“The purpose of the ban is to reduce the potential for the disease to spread from deer-to-deer by reducing the number of deer concentration sites,” Cornicelli said. “The disease can spread from one deer to another following nose-to-nose contact, contact with saliva or other body fluids. By eliminating deer feeding sites where that easily can occur, we reduce potential for the disease to spread.”

For more information, including a map of the disease management zone, locations of infected deer, landowner information, special deer hunt information, the deer feeding ban and an FAQ, visit the DNR’s CWD webpage.