Wildlife officials, Klobuchar press for deer disease funding
ST. PAUL, MN - Minnesota wildlife officials and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar are pressing Congress for more funding to monitor chronic wasting disease in the deer herd.
Minnesota Public Radio News reports they're also urging the federal Department of Agriculture to develop a national tracking system for the deer disease as well as standards for transporting deer across state lines.
The Department of Natural Resources says early test results showed hunters in southeastern Minnesota killed at least half a dozen CWD-infected deer this fall.
Until this hunting season, only 17 cases of CWD were confirmed in Minnesota's wild deer herds. Those cases were concentrated within a five-mile radius between Preston and Lanesboro, in southeastern Minnesota.
Chronic wasting disease also is found in other states, including Wisconsin and Iowa. Minnesota DNR wildlife research manager Lou Cornicelli said Sunday that the spread of the disease may be due to a lack of regulations across state lines.
"We look at risk related to new infections in other states," Cornicelli said. "The (CWD) infection in Wisconsin that is spreading across that state is a big deal for us ... and then also looking at taxidermy mounts and other things that come in from other states."
Currently there is no CWD test for living deer. Detection of the disease is only possible after a deer has been harvested, and by that time, the disease has likely already spread, officials said.
At a meeting Sunday with Klobuchar in her Minneapolis office, state wildlife officials said it costs $1 million a year to test and track CWD in Minnesota.
So far, that money has come from revenue from hunting and fishing licenses. Without more federal funding, the fatal deer disease poses a serious risk to Minnesota's economy and the sport, Klobuchar said.
"Not many people know that nearly 500,000 people hunt deer in our state's fields and forests every single year," she said. "They've helped make the sporting industry a $1.3 billion sector in our economy."