Minnesota farm shutters under deal to contain deer disease

Published 8:10 am Friday, April 19, 2019

ST. PAUL — A central Minnesota farm where deer were found infected with a fatal brain disease has closed and the U.S. Department of Agriculture compensated the owner for euthanizing his entire herd.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Wednesday that captive deer were killed on a Crow Wing County farm to try to prevent chronic wasting disease from spreading to wild deer in the region, the Star Tribune reported. The board didn’t disclose how much Trophy Woods Ranch in Merrifield was paid or how many deer were euthanized.

All carcasses from the pay-to-hunt shooting farm will be tested for the disease, according to the board.

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Chronic wasting disease hadn’t been detected in wild deer in central or northern Minnesota until February, when state officials announced that an emaciated deer found nearby the Merrifield farm had tested positive for the fatal illness.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was first informed that the farm could be harboring the disease in 2016. Since then, state officials tested more than 8,600 deer harvested by hunters in a zone around the farm.

At least seven captive deer at the farm have been confirmed as infected with the disease since 2016.

The USDA, which negotiated and funded the deal, will work with the state animal health regulatory board to implement a management plan at the shuttered farm since the prions that cause the disease remain in the soil.

The disease, which is transmissible through deer-to-deer contact, has been found concentrated in other parts of the state, such as southeastern Minnesota. The department permitted special deer hunts in December to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease in the area.