ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Hunters shot and killed about 420 deer in southeastern Minnesota in a special late-season hunt as part of the state's fight against chronic wasting disease.
The deer hunt last weekend in and around Fillmore County is part of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' plan to slow the spread of the fatal neurological disease among wild deer, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. Another special hunt will be held in the same area this weekend to remove infected deer and lower the frequency of contact between the animals.
Deer killed in the two special hunts will be tested for chronic wasting disease, which fatally attacks the animal's nervous system. CWD is transmissible through deer-to-deer contact, and it also affects elk and moose.
Minnesota first detected deer with the disease in Fillmore County two years ago, but the infected animals were isolated to a several-mile radius around the small town of Preston. Since then, CWD has spread outside the outbreak's original boundaries.
At least 10 new CWD cases have been detected in Minnesota's wild deer herds this fall, some of which were shot beyond the infected zone.
"This year we (saw) another one at Forestville," said Lou Cornicelli, a wildlife research manager for the state's Natural Resources Department. "Another west of Harmony. Another west of Chatfield. So now we're starting to see that spread."
Cornicelli said the department released a new management plan days after discovering the cases, which calls for the two special hunts and opening bag limits so hunters can take as many deer as possible. The department is also contracting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring in professional hunters to cull deer in the most infected areas.
Federal culling will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It's expensive," Cornicelli said. "But it's very effective."
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org