The first case ever of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Douglas County was reported Tuesday in a mature white-tailed doe that lived on a small deer farm.
The announcement by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health didn’t specify the location of the farm, but the finding is certain to introduce state-funded disease surveillance of the area’s wild deer herd. In addition, it’s possible that some land owners around the farm could be issued special permits in the coming weeks to harvest whitetails and have them tested.
“We don’t understand the risk yet,’’ said Michelle Carstensen, who heads the wildlife health group at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “But yes, there will be a response from us.’’
Since 2010, wildlife officials from the DNR have declared that CWD has spread to wild deer from three infected deer or elk farms — near Rochester, Winona and Brainerd.
The Douglas County hobby farm is the ninth state-regulated deer or elk farm in Minnesota to test positive for the contagious, always-fatal deer disease. Board of Animal Health Assistant Director Dr. Linda Glaser said the farm’s 8-year-old doe was killed by its pen mate, a buck.
As part of an ongoing investigation by the agency, the buck has been killed to accurately test it for CWD. There’s no reliable way to test live deer. No other deer now live at the farm, Glaser said.
Glaser said investigators will trace deer movements to and from the Douglas County enclosure since it was licensed. At least one fawn recently was moved off the Douglas County farm to another captive facility. That deer will be located and tested or quarantined, she said.
Carstensen said a DNR conservation officer will accompany officials from the Board of Animal Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to visit the farm soon. The DNR wants to inspect the location, including fence lines, to determine what risk the contaminated doe posed to surrounding wild deer.
The new CWD case prompted state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, whose district includes Douglas County, to issue a news release. He helped pass legislation this year to curtail CWD and put tougher regulations on deer farms.
“In a state with such an extensive and deeply-rooted hunting tradition, we take this new development very seriously,’’ the Republican senator said.