Deer association recommends halt to wild deer feeding

March 10, 2002 Associated Press
A hunters group wants people in Minnesota to stop feeding deer after the discovery of chronic wasting disease in wild deer in South Dakota and Wisconsin.

While the disease - a fatal brain ailment in deer and elk - hasn't been found in Minnesota, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association is recommending that people who feed deer consider stopping, fearing that deer feeding together could spread the disease.

Wildlife biologists also believe unnatural concentrations of deer at feeding stations could help spread chronic wasting disease. Biologists know it can be transmitted from deer to deer. "It's common sense: If someone has the flu, you don't drink out of the same glass," said Corey Class, operations manager and wildlife biologist for the deer hunters group. "We should not be bringing animals together," especially "nose to nose," at a feeder, he said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is considering tightening the law prohibiting deer baiting to close legal loopholes that allow hunters to flaunt the law. But the DNR deliberately has avoided any proposals that would restrict recreational deer feeding.

Class said the association has no immediate intention of proposing a law that would ban recreational deer feeding. But a Wisconsin lawmaker, state Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud, R-Eastman, wants his state to ban feeding wild deer and elk as a way to help stem the spread of the disease.

Minnesota tested 55 wild deer last fall for the disease, and all the animals tested negative. But the DNR still is concerned about the disease spreading here and is developing a plan to prevent that from happening.

The discovery of the disease in South Dakota and Wisconsin hasn't changed the DNR's intentions. "It has just increased the urgency of getting those plans completed," said Ed Boggess, DNR wildlife program manager.

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