Photo from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. 

Every year the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes their Chronic Wasting Disease sampling results from July to June, but they also keep their website updated constantly.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, according to the Centers for Disease Control. CWD can cause drastic weight loss, stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms. While there has never been a known case of CWD affecting humans, the World Health Organization has recommended that it is important to keep CWD infected meat from entering the human food chain.

While there may be visual cues to determine whether a deer has CWD, the disease can be confirmed through examining their lymph nodes only. Currently, the easiest way to test deer for CWD is through a post mortem evaluation. There are a handful of antemotorum tests that are available or in development, but there are many conditions that need to be met before using one, and they are quite costly, invasive and time consuming, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

The DNR began conducting voluntary surveillance in southeast Minnesota in 2016, after continuous detections of the disease in Wisconsin and Iowa. They found three wild deer infected with CWD that year. There have been 111 CWD positive deer in Minnesota since 2010, according to the department. 


Currently, there has been one positive case of CWD found this year. The counties that have had known cases of CWD in the past include Crow Wing, Dakota, Olmsted, Fillmore, Winona and Houston.


In 2020, there were 31 positive identifications of CWD in deer. All were found in the southeastern portion of the state. 


There were 44 detected cases on CWD found in the state in 2019. All but one were found in the southeast. The single case discovered in Crow Wing was a female deer that was found dead.


Some 17 cases were recorded in 2018. This was the first year cases were detected outside of Fillmore county, and that prompted the DNR to spread out their management zone to include deer permit areas 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655. All of which were renamed under the 600-series to signify CWD management in the area, according to the DNR.

Right now, the DNR is studying how deer move across southeastern Minnesota by fitting young deer with GPS collars and specialized tags. The study has shown that about a fourth of does travel 12 miles from their birthplaces, and about half of bucks travel some 14 miles from their birthplaces. The study has also shown hunting and vehicle collisions are the top killers of deer.

The study’s findings can benefit the CWD response plan, which outlines the steps the DNR is taking to eliminate the disease throughout Minnesota, just in the southeast. The response plan lists multiple ways to curve transmission between cervids, including implementing a recreational feeding ban. The plan also includes working closely with Tribal partners on the response, especially if the cases occur on reservation lands.  

Residents can help the DNR keep track of deer movement by sharing information about collared deer seen throughout the year. You can do this by sharing photos of collared deer on your land, monitor and report collared deer if they are sick or injured and calling in collars of harvested deer.

Hunters who are not in a testing area can also help the DNR keep track of CWD cases by paying to have their deer tested for the disease. To do that, contact University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory or Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories to talk about sending a lymph node sample for individual testing.

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