Chronic Wasting Disease response bill advances

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The Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Finance Committee approved a bill this week to appropriate $1.5 million for continuation of wildlife disease surveillance and emergency response as part of a major effort by the Department of Natural Resources to slow and prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Minnesota. $208,000 of the $1.5 million appropriation is earmarked for enforcement response to animals that are escaped from cervidae farms.

Caused by mutated proteins called prions, CWD is a fatal brain disease found in the cervid family: deer, moose, and elk. CWD is a highly contagious neurological brain disease that persists in the environment and can be spread within a short time after exposure, although symptoms may take up to three years to show up. As of January this year, the DNR identified a total of 36 CWD-positive deer in Minnesota, with 35 found in the southeast surveillance zone in Houston, Winona, and Fillmore Counties. Nationwide, CWD is confirmed in 25 states and two provinces, with parts of southern Wisconsin indicating that more than 50% of wild deer are infected with CWD.

Minnesota wildlife officials are working hard to slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease among wild deer in the state’s southeastern counties, trying to confine CWD to a few captive deer farms and relatively small areas of wild deer habitat. Last year, an estimated $1.3 million was spent from the DNR’s Game and Fish Fund on surveillance and on prohibitions of carcass transportation, feeding, and other activities in an effort to control the spread of the disease. Efforts are focused on counties in central and southeast Minnesota.

The bill will be heard next by the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee. (SF 444)