FILLMORE COUNTY, Minn.
The Department of Natural Resources is beginning a research project in southeast Minnesota tracking the area deer population in hopes of better understanding and slowing down the spread of chronic wasting disease. 17 deer in Fillmore County have been found with CWD since it was first detected in the fall of 2016.
Around the perimeter of the disease management zone in Fillmore County—also known as deer permit area 603—a helicopter capture company will capture 115 deer with nets from the helicopter. They will attach GPS radio collars to the deer. The capture process takes about five to ten minutes.
The project was scheduled to begin on Monday, but issues with the helicopter have caused the study to be delayed. DNR research scientist Chris Jenelle says they hope to begin by early next week, but it could be as early as this weekend.
Deer will be captured on public and private land where landowners have given the DNR permission. Those landowners will be updated by the DNR regarding how the deer use their land.
The deers' daily movements will be tracked to find seasonal movement patterns and dispersal patterns. Deer dispersal happens when juvenile deer become old enough to leave their mothers. This happens between May and July, so the study will run through July. The study will also collect data on deer mortality and survivorship.
The collected data will help DNR researchers understand how CWD is spread through seasonal movements and dispersal pathways, and find strategies to slow down the spreading of the disease.
The Minnesota DNR scientists plan to share collected data with Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin offices to better understand how to control CWD and benefit the long-term health of deer populations in the upper Midwest.
CWD is spread when deer gather. Feeding deer can cause deer to congregate in one place. There are currently deer feeding bans in 16 counties in central, north central, and southeast Minnesota—including Fillmore, Olmsted, Mower, Houston and Winona counties. The ban will be in place until at least June 27.
As there is no deer hunting season during the time of the study, Jenelle says the study will not affect hunting in Southeast Minnesota.