SAINT PAUL, Minn. – With the 2022 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season approaching, concerns around the increasing spread of Chronic Wasting Disease among the state's Cervidae population are mounting. DFL members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy committee are calling for immediate action on several measures to combat the disease.
“The Legislature must take immediate action to prevent the spread of CWD which is devastating our deer population. The health of our natural environment hinges on our ability to manage this crisis,” said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL - South Saint Paul), Chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy committee. “Continued inaction will result in irrevocable harm to the white-tailed deer population, and the implication of the potential spread of CWD prions to human populations is cause for great concern.”
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects cervids, including white-tailed deer. The lawmakers are proposing strong measures to combat CWD including an immediate moratorium on deer farms, and a requirement for closure and exclusion plans for deer farms. Deer farms have consistently proven to be hotbeds for CWD and are central to the state’s efforts to combat the disease. They are also promoting expanded funding for hunter-harvested carcass disposal, implementation of hunter service centers instead of surgical kits, and to continue prion research funding.
“In a matter of days, my family and I will join a half-million other Minnesotans when we take part in the deer opener. CWD continues to threaten this cherished tradition and serious action from the Legislature is long overdue,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls). “We have solutions before us that tackle CWD from several different directions, and I hope my Republican colleagues can join us to protect our state’s deer population.”
During the 2021 legislative session, the Minnesota House’s Environment and Natural Resources Finance bill included a series of provisions authored by Rep. Ecklund including additional requirements for deer farms, a live-testing requirement for farmed deer, a prohibition on the importation of farmed deer from other states with CWD, and a ban on new registrations for the possession of farmed white-tailed deer. The bill also would have transferred oversight of farmed deer from the Board of Animal Health to the Department of Natural Resources. The Republican-controlled Senate refused to consider the measures.
The representatives are also proposing expanded deer monitoring for PFAS, and neonicotinoids in deer to track and understand additional factors which impact the health of the deer population.
“Minnesota has a strong tradition of hunting and if we are to continue to pass this tradition on to future generations we must take action to prevent and eliminate CWD,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL - Roseville), lead author of legislation to limit deer farming operations. “As a hunter, the continued inaction from our Republican colleagues has been incredibly frustrating. I urge them to join us in our efforts to fight CWD so we can protect Minnesota’s hunting heritage.”
To learn more about CWD and what actions they can take to prevent its spread, hunters can visit the Minnesota DNR’s CWD web page.