DNR will study area including Mower for CWD

Published 8:29 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research project that will examine how deer move across the landscape in southeastern Minnesota’s chronic wasting disease management area was scheduled to begin Monday.

Data from the study will help estimate movement of male and female deer and how those patterns relate to disease transmission, says Dr. Chris Jennelle, a DNR research scientist.

“We can use that information to predict likely pathways of potential chronic wasting disease spread and also estimate causes of death for use in population models.”

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The DNR’s private contractor plans to capture 115 deer of varying age and sex classes and fit them with GPS radio collars.

Daily movements will be tracked to determine seasonal movements and dispersal pathways. Deer dispersal occurs when juvenile deer come of age and move away from their mothers. Exactly when that occurs during the May-to-July time frame, and how far they go, can vary.

Deer will be captured in nets launched from a helicopter. Captures will occur on private land where the DNR has obtained landowner permission. Deer also may be captured on public land. All captures will occur on and around the periphery of the disease management zone, also known as deer permit area 603, whose most western area abuts Mower County.

DNR staff will keep participating landowners updated on how GPS collared deer use the local landscape.

DNR scientists in Minnesota hope to share movement data across the upper Midwest with colleagues in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. With that information in hand, research and management strategies can be developed that will have a better chance of slowing disease spread and benefiting the long-term viability of deer populations.

More information about CWD can be found at mndnr.gov/cwd.

In a related item, a  deer feeding ban remains in effect for 16 counties, including Mower County, located in central, north-central and southeastern Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“This time of year, we start to hear of people interested in feeding deer, especially when they see deer searching for food before plants start to green up,” said Erik Thorson, acting big game program leader with the DNR. “People can help deer by being aware of and following the feeding bans that still are in place – they aid in preventing the spread of disease.”

A ban on deer feeding and deer attractants remains in effect through Wednesday, June 27, and will likely be extended because of ongoing disease issues. In Fillmore County, 17 wild deer have been found to have CWD since fall 2016, when the disease was first discovered near Preston.

Feed includes corn, grain, salt, mineral blocks, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer. People who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that prevents access by deer, or place the food at least 6 feet above the ground.

Food placed as a result of normal agricultural practices is generally exempted from the feeding ban, but cattle operators should take steps that minimize contact between deer and cattle.

More information about the precautionary feeding ban is available on the DNR’s website at mndnr.gov/cwd.