Minnesota’s fight against the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer is receiving solid, bipartisan support at the Legislature.
Advancing this week was a Senate bill that would appropriate $1.5 million in general fund money to help the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pay for culling, disease testing and enforcement efforts. That’s how much is needed for just one year’s battle against the growing outbreak of CWD in Minnesota’s bluff country south of Interstate Hwy. 90.
With the outbreak now in its third year, DNR efforts to geographically contain the disease and provide CWD surveillance in other regions of the state has been draining the agency’s primary Fish & Game account funded by sport license sales. Until now, wildlife managers at the DNR had been unsuccessful in arguing that the problem transcends the hunting community and that the cost should be shared.
“It’s a good start. I really appreciate the conversation changing,’’ said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research supervisor at the DNR.
The newly proposed CWD appropriation was approved by a key committee headed by Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point. The bill now goes before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. He said in an interview he supports the measure and will look for additional funds to pay for ongoing research.
“It’s going to be a lot of cost,’’ Ingebrigtsen said. “It’s one of my top priorities.’’
Democrats who control the House have been discussing tighter controls on Minnesota’s deer farmers. CWD has been detected in a number of captive herds and a state audit last year was critical of some aspects of deer farm oversight and regulatory compliance.
Ingebrigtsen said he doesn’t support far-reaching new measures to police deer farmers, but he is willing to consider a toughening of some regulations, possibly including better fencing of captive deer.
“We’re going to have to do something,’’ Ingebrigtsen said. “We have to at least give something a try.
A large contingent of deer hunters believes infected, captive deer are spreading CWD to the state’s priceless wild herd. Adding fuel to those beliefs is a new finding of CWD in a wild deer shot late last month 2½ miles from a Winona-area deer farm.
The farm was found last year to be wholly infected with the disease and also was found to be in violation of fencing standards. The wild buck shot during this year’s special hunt was the second CWD-positive deer harvested within a 9-mile radius of the same deer farm.