Crow Wing County recently announced that they are taking steps to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in the local deer population. As of Sept. 1, the county began accepting deer carcasses, free of charge, at the County Landfill on Highway 210 east of Brainerd in order to provide a containment option to minimize the spread of CWD on the rest of the landscape. There has been one confirmed case of CWD in the wild deer population in Crow Wing County.

CWD is a neurological disease affecting the cervid family – deer, elk, moose, reindeer and caribou. It causes characteristic spongy degeneration in the brain of an infected animal, which culminates in their death. It is spread when a cervid comes into contact with prions (defective proteins) from an infected animal. Prions from an infected animal are spread on the landscape through deposits of saliva or other bodily fluids. They are known to survive in the soils for multiple years, waiting to infect another cervid.

“This is a very resilient disease as those prions can survive some very harsh conditions,” said County Board Chair Rosemary Franzen. “What we do with deer carcasses that may or may not be infected is an important first step in containing the spread. If we just toss those carcasses onto the landscape, those prions will lay in wait. We would rather you bring all of your deer carcasses to the landfill so that if there are any prions present, we can properly contain and/or treat them. This is a crucial strategy to contain the spread and, depending on the rate with which people bring in their carcasses, we may be able to prevent CWD from spreading any further in the local deer population.”

Crow Wing County is encouraging all hunters to bring their deer carcasses to the landfill for disposal free of charge. “The more carcasses that are brought into the Landfill and disposed of in a responsible manner, the less likely that CWD is further spread across the landscape,” stated Ryan Simonson, Environmental Services Supervisor.

In addition, the county is also urging residents not to feed the local deer population in the coming winter.

“Congregating deer also increases the likelihood of the transfer of bodily fluids thereby potentially spreading the disease,” County Administrator Tim Houle said. “We know that people feed deer in the winter out of great compassion for those animals. Unfortunately, it may also be spreading a fatal disease.”

Currently the DNR has a deer feeding ban enacted for Crow Wing County.

Finally, Crow Wing County urges all residents to get any deer they shoot in Crow Wing County tested for CWD prior to consuming the meat from the animal. CWD is a spongiform disease in the same family as Creutzfeld-Jakobs Disease (CJD), otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease, which can pass to humans and manifest from consuming infected beef. There are currently no cases of CJD related to the handling of an infected animal, but the county still encourages hunters to use latex gloves when field dressing and handling deer carcasses and deer meat.