Chronic wasting disease found in wild Crow Wing County deer

The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed chronic wasting disease in a wild deer in Crow Wing County. This test result marks the first time in Minnesota the neurological disease has been found in a wild deer outside of the southeastern pa...

The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed chronic wasting disease in a wild deer in Crow Wing County. This test result marks the first time in Minnesota the neurological disease has been found in a wild deer outside of the southeastern part of the state, a DNR news release states.

Previous discoveries of the disease in wild deer have been concentrated predominantly in Fillmore County, with additional discoveries in Houston and Winona counties in the past two months.

As a result of these discoveries, the DNR is planning additional disease response actions, and Gov. Tim Walz is proposing new funding of $4.57 million over the next two fiscal years, and $1.1 million annually thereafter to combat the disease, including surveillance and response, enforcement and outreach to landowners.

"We take every discovery of CWD very seriously," said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. "It is our hope that we discovered the Crow Wing County infection early and can respond quickly with actions to eliminate the disease in this area. With this critical new funding, we will continue to work with private landowners, hunters and others to achieve our goal of maintaining a healthy deer herd and Minnesota's treasured deer hunting experience."

The Crow Wing County deer, an adult female, was found in Merrifield on Jan. 23. A conservation officer responded to a report of a deceased deer. The DNR tests suspect deer when possible, especially in areas of high risk. Test results confirmed the deer as positive for CWD on Thursday, Feb. 14.


The DNR began surveillance around a CWD-positive captive cervid facility near Merrifield starting in the 2017 hunting season. Over the last two years, the DNR has sampled more than 8,600 deer in this north-central surveillance zone, with no previous detections of CWD-positive deer.

"Thanks to our deer hunters, we have done a lot of surveillance in this area over the past two years, and it's our hope the disease is isolated within this area," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.

As next steps, the DNR will determine where deer are located in the area by working with conservation officers and wildlife staff, and conducting an aerial survey. In addition, the DNR will explore the possibility of late-season deer removals.

DNR will also work closely with the Board of Animal Health, which regulates Minnesota's captive deer and elk. Strommen emphasized that "I will take all steps within my authority to ensure the facility with CWD-positive deer has adequate safeguards in place to protect Minnesota's wild deer."

Board Senior Veterinarian Dr. Mackenzie Reberg affirmed, "The board's role is to protect the health of livestock in the state, and we are concerned about any detection of CWD in Minnesota. We believe in fighting this disease from all fronts and using science, surveillance and teamwork to stop CWD."

In addition to his $4.7 million proposal, Walz is also proposing $208,000 in 2020 and $529,000 starting in 2021 to the Board of Animal Health to improve their monitoring and practices surrounding farmed deer and chronic wasting disease.

"As a lifelong sportsman, I know how urgent this issue is for Minnesotans," Walz said in a news release. "The Minnesota DNR is working hard to contain chronic wasting disease. This critical funding would help ensure they have the best tools and resources available to maintain deer health and management across the state."

The DNR will implement a swift response with the goal of eliminating the disease from the areas where it has been found. Additionally, they will also determine where deer are located near Crow Wing County by working with conservation officers and wildlife staff and by conducting an aerial survey.


CWD affects deer, elk and moose and is spread through direct contact with an infected deer's saliva, urine, blood, feces, antler velvet or carcass. There is no vaccine or treatment for this disease. For more information on CWD, visit

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTY
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