New restrictions on feeding go into place on July 1.
Minnesota's latest discovery of a chronic wasting disease or CWD has led to an expansion of the state's deer feeding and attractant ban to six new counties.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made the announcement on their website that Washington, Hennepin, Dakota, Ramsey, Rice and Scott counties will now have total bans on baiting and attractants. It comes in response to a CWD-positive deer being found in Dakota County back in March.
CWD is a neurological disease spread by prions that affects members of the deer family including elk and moose. The disease is always fatal and has been found to spread fast where deer are congested into close quarters. Many high fence deer farms have had considerable problems with CWD.
"To prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, it's important to limit close contact among deer," DNR wildlife health program supervisor Michelle Carstensen said in a press release. "By keeping feed and attractants out of our backyards, Minnesotans can discourage the congregation of deer that spreads this deadly disease."
While the ban of baits should be obvious, the word "attractants" is a little vague. According to the DNR's website, attractants include salt and mineral licks as well as all food scents. This ban also includes attractant scents that contain deer urine or other bodily fluids. Many states have enacted similar bans because of findings that the prions that cause CWD can be found in deer urine and semen.
Because the prion can survive for years, it effectively "contaminates" the soil and can start the process over again if another infected deer feeds in the same spot.
The DNR says that people can continue to feed birds, but feed needs to be inaccessible to deer, preferably at least six feet high. The new ban also does not affect the planting of food plots or agricultural crops. The DNR says residents have until July 1 to remove mineral licks, salt blocks and other attractants from the woods.
The news of a new CWD discovery is disappointing, but there is some good news buried in the MDNR press release. While six new counties have been added to the list, five counties have not shown any signs of the disease for three consecutive years and will now be removed from the baiting ban list. That brings the total number of Minnesota counties with feeding bans to 32.
The five counties being removed are Wright, McLeod, Meeker, Renville and Kandiyohi. Considering all the trouble this disease has caused across the United States, we will take all the good news we can get on it.