First 41 deer killed for CWD testing are negative
The Department of Natural Resources got great news this morning: the first 41 deer tested for chronic wasting disease were negative.
The DNR is sampling deer shot by landowners near Pine Island to test for the disease and to lower deer numbers to lessen chances of animal-to-animal spread.
A deer shot by a hunter last fall tested positive for the disease, which is fatal to deer, elk and moose.
The landowners shooting deer for testing had to get special permits from the DNR.
Even with the good news that this group of samples is clean, there's a long way to go. The DNR wants to test 900 deer within a 10-mile radius of where a wild deer with CWD was shot last fall. Of those, about 500 should come from within five miles of where the CWD deer was found, said David Pauly, CWD surveillance coordinator.
The agency has issued more than 130 permits to landowners allowing them and anyone they allow on their land to shoot deer. Nearly 60 deer have been sampled, including a few roadkill deer.
The DNR takes two lymph nodes out of the neck of each deer and sends them to the University of Minnesota for testing. Results are known within three business days. If a tissue sample tests positive, it's sent to a lab in Ames, Iowa, for verification.
The sampling process isn't pretty. On Wednesday, Erik Hildebrand of the DNR was at Rochester's DNR headquarters, where he opened up the neck of a doe and remove two marble-sized lymph nodes. Each sample is coded, marking where the deer was shot and the carcass is stored.
Hildebrand, who participated in the bovine TB project in northern Minnesota, completed the process quickly.
"After taking a few thousand samples, you should get to be pretty good at it," he said, scalpel in hand.
Next week, the process will be done at a rented commercial building near U.S. 52 and 75th Street Northwest in Rochester so it's closer to where deer are being shot.
Hildebrand and the others should be busy this weekend; the DNR isn't having any problem getting landowners to volunteer to shoot deer.
"We are getting really really good cooperation," Pauly said. "We are getting unbelievable reception from landowners." Most landowners contacted the DNR for permits, and the agency had to initiate the process with only a few, he said.
The DNR would like to have landowners shoot 900 deer, but he thinks sharpshooters probably will be needed in a few weeks. The clock is ticking because when the snow begins to melt, the deer will scatter. The deep snow is both a blessing and a curse. It's a challenge for hunters, but extreme weather concentrates the deer around sources of food.