GRAND FORKS — Deer farms in Minnesota and North Dakota were among operations in seven states that received deer from a Wisconsin farm where chronic wasting disease was discovered in August, but the North Dakota herd is currently quarantined, and there is no evidence of CWD on the farm, officials say.
According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin farm where CWD was detected sold nearly 400 deer to 40 farms in seven states during the past five years.
A highly contagious brain disease, CWD is always fatal to deer and other members of the cervid family, including elk and moose.
Dr. Beth Carlson, deputy state veterinarian for the North Dakota Board of Animal Health, on Wednesday, Sept. 29, said the agency was notified about the situation in mid-August by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
The Wisconsin operation was approved to ship deer into North Dakota, and the deer met all of the animal health importation requirements, Carlson said in an email. Two deer from Wisconsin went to a single North Dakota farm, Shawn Schafer of Turtle Lake, North Dakota, executive director of the North American Deer Farmers Association, said in a phone interview.
The herd is quarantined, and the deer farm in central North Dakota is “fully cooperating with our investigation,” Carlson said. “There is no evidence of CWD on the North Dakota farm.”
The North Dakota Board of Animal Health will receive a more detailed update at its next meeting Oct. 6, she said.
In Minnesota, the state Department of Natural Resources contacted the Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Monday, Sept. 27, to verify the authenticity of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, according to a news release from the DNR. The board confirmed that deer farms in Stillwater and Clear Lake, Minnesota, had received a total of five deer from the Wisconsin farm between 2016 and 2017.
It is unknown if the deer were infected when they were transferred to Minnesota, the DNR said.
“The news that Minnesota deer farms imported deer from a Wisconsin farm infected with CWD is extremely concerning,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement. “The DNR is actively considering management responses to this latest threat to Minnesota’s wild deer.”
The Stillwater farm, which now is out of business, initially received two deer in 2016. The deer in early 2019 were transferred to a farm in Grand Meadow, Minnesota, which also is now out of business.
The two deer then were transferred to a Wisconsin farm in late 2019. The Minnesota DNR is working to determine whether those animals are still alive, or have died and were tested.
A Clear Lake, Minnesota, farm received three deer from the Wisconsin farm in the fall of 2017. Two of those deer were killed in early 2021, and CWD was not detected in them, the DNR said. The third deer is still alive. The owner is awaiting payment before making the animal available for testing. At this time, the entire Clear Lake herd is quarantined.
Since 2002, the Minnesota DNR has tested more than 90,000 wild deer for CWD, and 115 white-tailed deer have tested positive. In North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department as of January had confirmed CWD in 44 wild deer since 2009, when the disease first was detected in southwest North Dakota. That total includes 18 deer that tested positive for CWD during North Dakota's 2020 hunting season, the Game and Fish Department said in January. The disease has yet to be found in eastern North Dakota.
North Dakota has 16 deer farms, 44 elk farms, three mixed herds and one reindeer herd, said Carlson, the deputy state veterinarian. Those numbers include zoos that exhibit deer or elk, she said.
“Despite extensive testing (more than 11,000 samples since 1998), CWD has never been suspected or confirmed in farmed deer or elk in North Dakota,” Carlson said.