State wildlife officials issued an emergency 30-day rule Monday that forbids the transport of farm-raised white-tailed deer anywhere in the state, following the report of another case of always-fatal chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The temporary measure will give the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health time to investigate any contacts the infected deer in Douglas County may have had with other animals, said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.
It's the first time the DNR has ever issued such a rule, Strommen said.
"We don't take this action lightly," she said. "The DNR is committed to proactively addressing CWD and doing everything we can do to protect Minnesota's deer herd. The Douglas County positive, with its connections to other farms in the state, poses a risk to wild deer that requires emergency action."
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health earlier this month confirmed that an 8-year-old white-tailed doe had tested positive for the deer disease in a two-deer hobbyist herd in Douglas County, in the west-central part of the state. The hobby farm is the ninth state-regulated deer or elk farm in Minnesota to test positive for the contagious deer disease.
The doe was killed by the other deer on the Douglas County farm, and that deer was then euthanized and tested for the disease. It's not possible to test for the disease on a live animal.
At least one fawn recently was moved off the Douglas County farm to another captive facility. Dr. Linda Glaser, assistant director of the state Animal Health Board, told the Star Tribune earlier this month that the board planned to locate that animal and have it either tested or quarantined.
The temporary prohibition on movement will help control the disease's spread and give DNR staffers, along with others from the Animal Health Board, time to investigate the Douglas County outbreak, said Strommen. She said the emergency rule was needed because earlier efforts to stop the spread of CWD haven't worked.
"I think it's become apparent that addressing this farm-by-farm, positive-deer-by-positive-deer, simply isn't working," said Strommen.
Minnesota has gone from zero to 58 confirmed cases of CWD in wild deer in three years. While the origin of the largest outbreak, in Fillmore County, is not known, Minnesota's three other CWD outbreaks in wild deer have been linked by the DNR to infected deer or elk farms near Rochester, Winona and Brainerd.
One such farm, a hunting preserve and breeding facility in Crow Wing County, stayed in business for more than two years after the disease was discovered festering in its herd.
The emerging link between deer farms and CWD infections has made the state's 339 family-owned deer and elk farms a flash point in the debate over who is to blame for the spread of CWD.
Chronic wasting disease was first detected in Minnesota in 2002. Some 73 wild deer have been confirmed positive for the disease in the state since then.