A third deer infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been discovered in southeastern Minnesota, but the discovery was made within a known infected area and won't change the boundaries of a special hunt, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said Tuesday.

The special hunt in Fillmore County begins Saturday with the goal of thinning the local whitetail population to reduce the risk of CWD spreading among deer.

The DNR said a hunter killed the infected deer in mid-November about 5 miles north of the two previously reported infected deer, which were killed about 4 miles west of Lanesboro. A taxidermist provided the DNR with a sample for testing, which led to the discovery.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal brain disease in deer, elk and moose. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans, but the health agency says people should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD.

The CWD outbreak in southeastern Minnesota marks only the second time the disease has been reported in wild deer in the state.

Before the recent discovery near Lanesboro, the only other wild deer with the disease found in Minnesota was harvested near Pine Island in 2010, about 40 to 45 miles away from the latest discoveries.

In the case of Pine Island, a special hunt conducted by the DNR killed more than 4,000 deer in a zone mapped out in a 10-mile radius from where the infected deer had been killed. The new disease management zone in Fillmore County is similar in size.

The DNR is hoping to take 900 mature deer out of the local herd, initially by allowing hunters to buy tags for $2.50 or fill tags not used in the 2016 hunting season. The special hunt concludes Jan. 15. Hunters must have landowner permission if staging on private land.

"We strongly encourage landowners to participate in the special hunt that begins Dec. 31," said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's wildlife research manager.

"When the landowner shooting program begins Jan. 16, they'll be allowed to take additional deer."

Southeastern Minnesota is a popular location for deer and elk farms and the latest CWD finding means that one additional deer farm in the area will be placed under restrictions that prevent movement of the animals to or from the farms.

CWD is contagious among deer, elk and moose, and a ban on feeding wild deer in the counties surrounding the disease management zone is part of the state's fight to stop the disease from spreading.

Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213