Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Hunters harvested 48 deer during the first weekend of a special hunt in northwestern Minnesota that aims to reduce deer density and stop the potential spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB), according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The hunt began Dec. 29 and continues through Jan. 13 in Permit Area 101, which is considered the bovine TB zone in far northwestern Minnesota. It is open to hunters who have a valid, unused permit to harvest deer regardless of the zone in which a hunter was licensed.

To date, four deer harvested in the TB zone during the regular firearms season in November have tested presumptive positive for bovine TB. Three tested positive prior to the DNR's Dec. 5 announcement of the late-season hunt. Since then, lab results have indicated that an additional deer taken during the regular firearms season has tested positive.

"Finding one additional deer with the disease is a concern," said Michael DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research and policy manager. "But the prevalence of the disease remains low and is confined to a small geographic region." All four of the infected deer from the fall 2007 hunt have been found within a five-mile radius of Skime.

After the late season hunt concludes, the DNR will conduct an aerial survey of the area to determine deer distribution and abundance. Once that information is collected, the DNR will finalize plans on the need for additional deer removal by sharpshooters. DNR also will continue to work with the agricultural community to expand and improve programs and policies to help prevent contact between cattle and deer.

This fall's testing of deer harvested in Permit Area 101 was part of the DNR's ongoing TB surveillance program, which began in 2005 when the disease was first discovered in cattle. Since then, DonCarlos said, bovine TB has been detected in eight cattle herds and 17 wild deer in Roseau and Beltrami counties. Officials from the DNR, Minnesota Board of Animal Health and U.S. Department of Agriculture have been aggressively working to manage the disease in deer and livestock so Minnesota can regain its bovine TB-free accreditation.

"This may be a narrow window of opportunity to stop this disease in its tracks," DonCarlos said. "As long as bovine TB continues to be found in deer, DNR will continue to work with local hunters, landowners, other wildlife and agriculture organizations and agencies to eliminate bovine TB in Minnesota."

Details of the special late-season hunt being conducted in deer Permit Area 101 only are:
- season dates are Saturday, Dec. 29, to Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008
- deer of either sex may be taken
- hunters can use any 2007 license or permit from any zone
- a hunter must have a license and use the legal weapon for that license; for example, a hunter cannot use a rifle if he or she does not
have a valid 2007 firearms license
- new or replacement licenses can be obtained at any Electronic Licensing System agent, and hunters can buy additional disease
management permits for $2.50
- deer also can be tagged with any remaining unused tags from the 2007 season; for example, deer can be tagged with an unfilled
firearms license, disease management permits, bonus permits or all-season tags.

All harvested deer must be registered at Olson Skime store in Skime; Riverfront Station in Wannaska; Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area headquarters during regular business hours; or Red Lake Wildlife Management Area headquarters during regular business hours.

DNR employees will staff the Skime and Wannaska registration stations during each weekend (Saturday - Monday) of the special season to examine harvested deer for clinical signs of bovine TB. If a deer is taken during the week that exhibits signs of bovine TB, such as lesions on the lungs, hunters should contact the Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area at (218) 222-3747 or the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area at (218) 783-6861.

Temporary deer population reductions may create short-term hardships for deer hunters in this particular area of northwestern Minnesota, Cornicelli said. But reducing the long-term risk of bovine TB becoming established and spreading in the deer population is extremely important.

"In the short term that means deer densities in the bovine TB area will need to be kept low," Cornicelli said. "However, Minnesota's deer populations are resilient, and while we recognize that dramatic reductions in populations won't be popular with everyone, history tells us deer rebound very quickly."

Following two severe winters in the mid-1990s, Minnesota's wild deer population was very low, he said. But fewer than 10 years later, deer populations had expanded to record levels.


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