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DNR Video Guides Deer Hunters in Collecting Tissue to Test for Chronic Wasting Disease

Lymph node samples, testing combats disease. 

When the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posted a video recently on Facebook showing deer hunters how to collect neck lymph node samples for private chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing, it went viral.

“We posted the video on our division Facebook page and I think it got something like 600 shares, which is pretty remarkable,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “There’s been interest from some hunters to take their own CWD samples outside our CWD-surveillance areas, so we made a video to explain how to do it. The question for us was how to get the word out, and it turns out social media was the right medium.”

On opening weekend, all deer hunters from 21 permit areas in parts of north-central, central and southern Minnesota are required to bring their deer to sampling stations where DNR officials will remove neck lymph nodes for CWD testing. The mandatory testing is a response to the reappearance of CWD — a deadly central nervous system disease affecting deer and elk — in Minnesota last fall. The DNR also recognizes hunters outside CWD-permit areas (and after opening weekend) may want to test their own deer.

But is it practical for hunters to be their own field surgeons and extract the lymph nodes using the video as a guide?

“I think it is — it’s easy to do and most deer hunters are pretty good with knives,” Cornicelli said. “I don’t know how many will opt to do it, but any private testing will supplement what we’re already doing.”

The video, which runs less than three minutes and is embedded on the CWD pages of the agency’s website (dnr.state.mn.us), is easy to follow and shows Cornicelli using a hunting knife and Leatherman multi-tool to extract a lymph node from a deer’s neck. “It’s actually best done when the animal is fresh, because you’ll able to see the lymph node much better,” Cornicelli said.

Cornicelli recommends the lymph nodes be submitted for testing at either the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (for a fee of $45) or Colorado State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab ($17). Test results could take up to two weeks. The DNR, Cornicelli said, will dispose of any CWD-positive deer.

“We’re always immediately notified if any deer test positive and hunters can opt for us to pick up their deer and we’ll take care of it,” he said.

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