Minnesota has joined the roster of states where chronic wasting disease has been found in wild, free-ranging deer, and what happens next will tell us a lot about the state’s approach to either containing or living with the fatal disease.
The announcement was made yesterday by the state’s Department of Natural Resources after a whitetail shot by a bowhunter in the southeastern corner of Minnesota was found to be infected by the brain-wasting disease.
The news is alarming–CWD is nearly always fatal to the deer and elk it infects–but it shouldn’t be considered especially surprising. After all, CWD is endemic in the entire southwest quarter of Wisconsin, just 30 miles from where the deer was killed in Pine Island, Minn.
Still, the discovery of CWD in the Minnesota deer means the disease continues its spread through wild deer herds. Want some idea of where CWD has been detected? Here’s the official prevalence map (http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/images/cwd/cwd_map_ico.jpg) but note that it has not yet been updated with the latest news from Minnesota.
Minnesota wildlife officials are undoubtedly discussing what to do now. Do they follow Wisconsin’s reaction to CWD, and start mowing down every deer they can find in the disease hot zone? Or do they take Wyoming’s model and simply monitor the spread and prevalence of the disease, but besides liberalizing harvest limits, take a relatively hands-off approach to containing CWD?
What does your state do? What should Minnesota do? And do you think a cure will ever be found for CWD, or is simply part of the deer-management landscape that we simply have to accept?