A news article in Saturday’s St. Paul Pioneer Press sent a chill up my spine. A deer near Pine Island in Goodhue County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
I read the story and paid close attention, and not just because I am a deer hunter. Pine Island isn’t too far from the area where I hunt near Red Wing. It looks to be about 30 miles. The discovery of CWD in the area has me more than just a little concerned.
But, my nervousness is nothing compared to how deer hunters in the immediate area feel. They are devastated — and with good reason. The DNR, according to the article, has quickly sounded the alarm and made plans to deal with the issue, which certainly will mean killing lots of deer in the area to do more CWD testing.
The best-case scenario is that no more deer will test positive for the disease. Even so, hunters in the area are sure to see far fewer deer in the woods during the 2011 hunting season. That’s awful news for a group of hunters very committed to managing the deer herd for a balanced population between bucks and does and for a high number of mature bucks.
It seems hunters in the area have banded together to practice something called Quality Deer Management (QDM). Under this approach, hunters try to take more does and pass on small bucks. This creates a higher buck-to-doe ratio, plus helps bucks grow bigger and older before being harvested.
Unfortunately, CWD has thrown a wrench into their program. I sympathize with the crestfallen hunters of the region. They’ll have to be even more patient than they have been as they work to try and help the deer population recover from the intensive harvest sure to take place soon.
This is the first wild deer in the state that has tested positive for CWD. Wisconsin has had the disease for at least 20 years, with states like Colorado and Wyoming also sharing the problem. The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance has more information about the disease and the history of it in the U.S., which was first discovered in 1967 in Colorado.
Let’s hope that the DNR here in Minnesota can nip this problem in the bud.