The spread of bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota has forced the Department of Natural Resources to consider killing some wild elk there.
The agency has been working to thin the deer herd in that area but announced Tuesday that it also will issue elk-shooting permits on a case-by-case basis.
Elk permits will be considered in areas where there is direct interaction with elk and either cattle or stored feed and there are no other feasible options, officials said.
Two small elk herds roam northwestern Minnesota, about 55 in the Grygla, Minn., area -- near the TB outbreak -- and 80 in Kittson County. They have been carefully managed since they were reintroduced into the state decades ago. Limited hunting seasons have been held over the years to keep their populations in check.
It's uncertain what impact the bovine TB situation could have on the elk herd, but officials don't expect a lot of elk to be killed. One bull elk has been shot so far, and will be tested. No elk tested in recent years has had bovine TB.
Meanwhile, the DNR will issue permits for landowners and tenants to shoot deer in deer management area 101. The permits will be issued March 18 during a public meeting at Wannaska Elementary School.
DNR officials will explain the expedited permitting process at the meeting before issuing permits, said Northwestern Regional Wildlife Manager Paul Telander. Landowners and tenants unable to attend can obtain a permit by contacting their area wildlife office.
All deer shot using an expedited permit must be taken within deer management area 101 and be submitted for TB testing.
Telander said DNR officials also are seeking approval for an emergency rule allowing landowners or tenants in deer management area 101, which is considered the TB management zone, to take deer without a permit or license provided each deer taken is submitted for testing.
Once the rule takes effect, special shooting permits will no longer be required. The rule is expected to be in place by the end of March and to extend at least through May 15.
Bovine TB was first discovered in area cattle herds in 2005. Since that time, 17 deer have been confirmed with TB out of a sample of more than 3,000 tested in northwestern Minnesota.