ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday, Aug. 27, outlined stepped-up efforts to fight back against chronic wasting disease, which is spreading across North America and parts of the state.

The DNR efforts are focused on southeastern counties where CWD is spreading and where the DNR is hoping hunters will shoot extra deer to trim the population and to provide more deer for CWD testing. It’s hoped that a smaller deer herd in the area will help slow the spread of CWD.

The DNR has also created a new CWD zone north of Brainerd where a single wild deer and multiple farm-raised deer tested positive for CWD in the past year. Mandatory testing will be conducted of deer harvested in area 604 where hunters also will be allowed to shoot unlimited antlerless deer.

Because wildlife managers believe human feeding of deer brings the animals closer together and increases the spread of disease, the state also has expanded areas where it’s illegal to feed deer. The deer feeding ban includes Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Stearns and Wright counties, and the portion of Renville County north of U.S. Highway 212. Deer feeding and attractants — including deer hunting scents and liquids — are now banned in Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, Wadena, Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties.

The DNR noted that a statewide ban on importing deer and other deer-family big game carcasses from any other state or province, in place since 2016, remains in effect. State lawmakers this year upgraded the status of that ban from a DNR rule to a state law violation. Only processed, cut and wrapped meat can be brought in from other states — no whole animals or uncut parts that include any of the brain or spinal cord.

CWD is an always-fatal neurological disease that has now been confirmed in dozens of states impacting mule and whitetail deer, elk, moose and caribou. While it’s not believed to spread to humans, officials warn against handling or eating meat from infected animals. So far, however, there is no cheap or easy test for CWD in deer and only dead animals can be tested.