Wednesday, March 14, 2007

MINNESOTA NEWS: Deer Killed to Control Bovine TB Outbreak

SKIME, Minn. -- Federal sharpshooters have killed about 225 whitetails in the past three weeks in an effort to measure and control an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis in the area.
It will take about three months to find out whether the tissue from any of the deer tested positive for TB, said Michelle Powell, wildlife health program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Heaven forbid if it ends up being an epidemic of TB up here," said Conway Marvin, who owns land near Skime. "It will impact our economy. Thousands of jobs up here depend on that time of year."

Seven wild deer -- two during the 2005 hunting season and five during last fall's season -- were found to be infected with the disease. Officials believe it came into the state through cattle, and contact between cattle and deer can spread it to the deer population.

Seven cattle herds in the area were "depopulated" because infected animals were found.
Powell said the sharpshooters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services will take a break this week and "re-bait" their shooting sights. They'll resume shooting next week.
They've been hunting day and night, shooting deer of all ages and genders with silencers and infrared night-vision equipment.

Their target area includes a six-mile radius of Skime, just north of Roseau, Marshall and Beltrami counties, where TB first was found in a cattle herd in early 2005.

The sharpshooters must have permission from landowners. Some landowners, like Marvin, haven't given permission and will seek permits to shoot deer on their land, Powell said.
Marvin and his brothers own about 2,600 acres of wildlife habitat near Skime and they've developed the parcels for their enjoyment.

"It's our land, and we have developed it, and plowed and disced it and watched the deer grow, and we think it's a right we want to exercise," he said.

Marvin, who owns a sporting goods store near Warroad, said northern Minnesota would be hurt economically if the TB outbreak isn't stopped.

He wants government agencies to take a multi-pronged approach to stop the disease from spreading -- including subsidizing high fences to separate cattle from deer, or conducting extra shooting.

"We can't just shoot all the deer and expect it to go away, and we can't remove all the cattle and expect it to go away," he said. "We don't think the other prongs are moving very fast."

Powell said that as of Monday, the sharpshooters had killed 96 adult females and 11 adult males; 23 yearling females and 19 yearling males; 35 female fawns and 40 male fawns.
Even if a deer is infected, the meat is safe to eat with proper cooking. So far, all the meat has gone to local people who signed up for it.


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