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Hunters respond to CWD zone

Hunters this fall apparently plan to shoot a lot of deer in the Pine Island area where a deer with chronic wasting disease was found nearly a year ago.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,203 disease management permits had been sold for the special 23-day season that opens Saturday, the same day as the regular statewide hunting season, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Nearly all the land is private, so hunters will either have to own the land or get permission to hunt on it.

A few hunters have bought 15 or 16 disease management permits at Gander Mountain in Rochester, said Brittany Delzer, who was working Wednesday in its customer service area.

"Now, they are flying" as hunters are buying more and more, she said.

Regular hunting licenses "are really selling right now," she added. "We are absolutely crazy busy right now."


The DNR has been hoping hunters would respond to its special season and shoot a lot of deer within the special zone, which is bordered by Minnesota 60 to the north, Minnesota 57 to the west, U.S. 14 to the south and U.S. 63 to the east. All deer shot within that area must be tested for chronic wasting disease, which is fatal to deer but has not been shown to be transmitted to humans.

The DNR wants to have as many deer shot as possible in the zone, both to test for chronic wasting disease and decrease the chances of transmission of the disease between deer.

That is same area the DNR concentrated on last winter. When the disease was found in tests done in January, the DNR responded by allowing landowners and their guests to shoot deer. The DNR also hired federal sharpshooters, but they won't be here this fall.

The DNR said 1,180 deer, including some killed by cars, were tested and none had the disease. The DNR estimated there were about 6,500 deer within 10 miles of where the infected deer was shot, though deer were concentrating in the area because of winter.

This fall, archery deer hunters have shot about 300 more deer in the CWD zone, and all have tested negative for CWD.

Chances for hunters to shoot a deer in the special zone, or anywhere in the region, are unusually good this fall, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. The weather is expected to be mild, so hunters can stay outside longer, and most of the corn has been harvested so deer have fewer places to hide, he said.

The DNR plans to have special hunts in the CWD zone for at least four more seasons, he said. If no more cases are detected, the  could be abandoned and the regular hunting zones go back into effect, he said.

While the number of deer could be dramatically reduced within the CWD zone, it should only take a few years for the herd to come back once the intensive shooting ends, he said. Deer in southeastern Minnesota are very productive, with many doe fawns giving birth to one fawn and most adult does having two or three fawns.


Cornicelli praised landowners in the area for learning about chronic wasting disease last winter and responding to a DNR ban on feeding and other rules.

"I think people just get it down there," he said.

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