Minnesota Retools Deer Season in CWD Area

Minnesota deer hunters who hunt near Pine Island (in the southeastern corner of the state) will have to follow some new rules this fall as the state DNR responds to last year's discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)in the area. The general firearms hunt will be expanded to a 23-day season, tissue samples will be required of all registered deer, and carcass import/export restrictions will be in place.

Last fall, the Gopher State's first CWD-positive whitetail was killed by a bowhunter near Pine Island, a small town just outside of Rochester. In response, the DNR opened a special "surveillance area" in a 10-mile radius surrounding the original kill site last winter, issuing shooting permits to 315 landowners and hiring USDA sharpshooters to remove adult deer in the area. That effort ended April 1, with over 1,000 deer submitted for testing. No additional CWD-positive deer were discovered.

I live less than an hour from here and, like most of this region's deer hunters, was relieved when no further evidence of CWD was found. Of course, that doesn't mean the disease isn't there and it will be a small miracle if no further cases are found this year. I'm also supportive of the DNR's tweaking of the season and its commitment to test hunter-killed animals. Obviously, the extended gun hunt will result in an elevated kill, which will increase sample size and indicate how widespread the disease is in the area.

But it will be interesting to see how well landowner/hunter participation and acceptance--which has been good up to this point--will evolve if more deer test positive. CWD is still a mysterious disease and the general response of most game agencies that encounter it is pretty simpl: kill more deer. As our neighbors in Wisconsin will attest, public acceptance of that remedy has its limits.