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Return to mandatory testing in CWD zones this season

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing for deer harvested in certain deer permit areas will once again be mandatory for specified weekends of the 2021 deer hunting season. This year hunters will also find additional deer permit areas have been added to disease zones due to detections of CWD in both wild and farmed deer in the past year.

During the opening weekends of both firearms A and B seasons (Nov. 6-7 and Nov. 20-21, respectively), any deer one year or older that is harvested from a DPA in one of the CWD zones must be submitted for testing. The exceptions are DPAs 213 and 273, which are part of a risk-based surveillance program and will accept voluntary sample submissions until goal is reached.

Outside of opening weekend, voluntary submissions for deer harvested in any CWD management or control zone will be accepted at self-service stations throughout the hunting season, starting with the opening of archery season on Saturday, Sept. 18; deer harvested in the surveillance zone can be sampled voluntarily by making appointments at area wildlife offices.

“Test results show how prevalent chronic wasting disease is in certain areas, which helps us tailor our management actions to focus on areas where the disease is concentrated,” said Erik Hildebrand, wildlife health specialist. “The DNR’s aggressive, risk-based response is based on the best-available science, and hunter-provided samples are a crucial component in helping us monitor the health of our wild deer herd.”

The DNR will staff sampling stations during mandatory weekends, as it did prior to the 2020 hunting season. This year, DNR staff will be following any Minnesota COVID-19 social distancing or mask requirements that are in place during these weekends.

Self-service sampling station options also will be available for hunters who would prefer to drop off their deer heads rather than having staff take the samples at stations. Sampling stations are listed online. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 response, hunters should check the DNR’s CWD webpage, subscribe to the Deer Notes newsletter, or monitor the Wildlife Facebook or Twitter pages for any modifications closer to the season.

This year, the DNR has simplified CWD zone names into three tiers: management zone, control zone and surveillance zone. Hunters should refer to the regulations book to see whether their deer permit area is within one of these zones, where special disease regulations apply.

All DPAs that were in a CWD zone last year remain in a CWD zone this year, with several DPAs added. As a result of the detection of CWD in a Beltrami County deer facility, along with test results confirming the presence of infectious prions in deer carcasses that were dumped on county land near the farm, DPAs 184, 110 and 197, and the portion of 169 west of highway 6, are part of the CWD surveillance zone. DPAs 233 and 342, located between the south metro area and the southeastern corner of the state, also have been added to the CWD surveillance zone because additional CWD-positive deer were detected within the management zone.

This is the third year of testing since finding disease in a wild deer within DPA 604, in north-central Minnesota. If CWD is not detected, and an adequate number of samples are collected, testing will conclude and this DPA will dissolve back to historic DPAs.

This year, the unlimited antlerless bag limit, which applied to DPAs in the CWD management zone, has changed to a five-deer bag limit. Both bucks and does harvested count toward the bag limit. The five-deer bag limit does not apply during the late CWD hunts, scheduled in designated deer permit areas for Dec. 17-19 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2. Full details of the hunts will be available online later this year.

Mandatory carcass movement restrictions are in effect for the CWD management and control zones. Whole carcasses cannot leave these zones until a “not detected” test result is received. Hunters can debone or quarter their deer, in order to transport their harvest; the DNR will have dumpsters and quartering stations available in the management and control zones to help with disposal of parts that cannot be transported. No carcass movement restrictions are in place in the CWD surveillance zone, where the disease has not been discovered in wild deer.

The DNR is committed to maintaining a healthy deer herd and is taking three primary management actions to control the disease in areas where CWD was detected in wild deer: reducing deer densities; using feeding and attractant bans to reduce contact between deer; and restricting carcass movement. Keeping our deer population healthy supports hunting opportunities for current and future deer hunters.

For more information on CWD, the DNR’s continued efforts to manage the disease and how to help, visit the DNR’s chronic wasting disease management page at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/cwd/index.html. Hunters can also find hunting regulations and information about chronic wasting disease regulations and sampling in the 2021 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations book.