CWD-positive deer farm closed in central Minnesota

April 17, 2019 06:04 PM

A central Minnesota deer farm where chronic wasting disease was found has been shut down.

In 2017, Kevin Schmidt invited 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS to visit his Trophy Woods Ranch in Crow Wing County.

Schmidt raised big mule deer for breeding and had a small hunting preserve. But in 2016, he had a positive CWD test.  

In 2018, four more deer tested positive, and a wild deer near his farm was found to have CWD this past January.

So Schmidt agreed to have his farm depopulated to prevent the disease from spreading.

According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, there were about 100 deer on the farm.  

The BAH describes CWD as a disease of the deer and elk family caused by an abnormally shaped protein - a prion - which can damage brain and nerve tissue.

The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine and other fluids or tissues. CWD is not known to naturally occur in other animals.

The disease is fatal in deer and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. Consuming infected meat is not advised.

Schmidt has been unable to figure out why more CWD positive deer were found.

He speculated it may be because the land he purchased for his farm was once used as a dumping spot for wild deer carcasses. Some of those deer may have had CWD, and the prions can stay in the ground for years.
 
Schmidt was paid by the USDA for his herd, but that amount is not made public.

The Board of Animal Health is coordinating with the USDA to collect tissue samples for CWD testing, and will report results when they become available.

"We anticipate receiving CWD testing results from the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory within the coming weeks," said Board of Animal Health Assistant Director Dr. Linda Glaser.

"We've already developed a herd plan with the owner on how to handle the property now that the deer are gone. At this point, any CWD positive results do not change our disease response because we already know the site held CWD positive deer and have been treating it as such."

According to the BAH, the Crow Wing County deer herd was the only CWD positive farm in the state operating under a herd plan with live animals. As of this depopulation, all CWD positive deer farms in the state are empty.

Following depopulation, the sites are managed in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Board of Animal Health-approved herd plan.

The Board continues mandatory CWD monitoring in all other farmed cervid herds and has no CWD positive detections as of this release.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is proposing new funding of $4.57 million over the next two fiscal years, and $1.1 million annually thereafter to combat the disease, including surveillance and response, enforcement and outreach to landowners.

"We take every discovery of CWD very seriously," DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said. "It is our hope that we discovered the Crow Wing County infection early and can respond quickly with actions to eliminate the disease in this area.

"With this critical new funding, we will continue to work with private landowners, hunters and others to achieve our goal of maintaining a healthy deer herd and Minnesota's treasured deer hunting experience."

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