In recent years the Minnesota DNR has been tracking the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in Minnesota deer. Chronic Wasting Disease (or CWD) is a neurological degenerative disease that causes the brains of deer (and other cervids) to deteriorate and become spongy. It ultimately leads to the death of the infected animal. While a direct link to human infection by CWD through contact with or consumption of infected deer has not been recorded, other similar diseases do affect humans.
The larger concern for now is the spread of the disease through Minnesota deer populations. The positive test rates of CWD have been historically low in Minnesota, but positive tests do keep occurring in new areas. CWD can spread from deer to deer through direct or indirect contact. The prions, or infectious agents of CWD, can be spread through deer saliva, urine, feces, blood, and even antler velvet. Concentrating numerous deer in one area greatly increases the chances that the disease can spread through the local population and keep spreading outward from there. Deer feeders, salt licks, and other attractants concentrate deer to an area and increase the likelihood of the disease spreading.
The MN DNR is implementing feeding and attractant bans in and around areas where CWD has been found. Anoka County is not yet included on the ban list for either of these activities, but it is surrounded on all sides by counties that are. Now is the time to be proactive. We all love to watch the deer in our yard, local parks, and wildlife areas, especially the spotted fawns in the spring. Many of us also enjoy watching for a set of antlers on a chilly fall morning from a tree stand. Stopping the use of deer feed and attractants now will help ensure that we can continue to watch and marvel at these majestic animals into the future.