Covid-19 creates an unexpected problem with Minnesota's fight against CWD.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused plenty of problems across the United States, many of them completely unexpected. Such is the case for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They say Covid-19 has unintentionally caused a dip in testing of deer harvests for chronic wasting disease or CWD.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the DNR dropped the rule for mandatory CWD testing for this season and made the free testing voluntary instead. There's just one problem, now the DNR is getting very little participation in the testing program.
In fact, the DNR is saying that 70 percent of hunters have decided not to have their deer tested since the first seasons began back in September.
"We are barely hitting 30%," DNR wildlife research team leader Michelle Carstensen told the Star Tribune. "I'm concerned from what I've seen so far that it might not be enough information to find out what's going on with the disease."
Carstensen told the paper that losing a year's worth of data could make it more difficult to contain the spread of CWD, a highly infectious and always-fatal neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family.+
Right now, the DNR is encouraging hunters to use CWD drop-off points. These are places where hunters can mark and drop their deer heads for testing. The DNR has wanted people to utilize these stations more since it's less expensive than operating manned check stations every year anyway.
The DNR now has some new goals in mind for CWD testing this year. They are hoping for a 50% participation rate. They may be able to get it if hunters turn out for testing during the firearms season that is set to start on November 7.
"It's lower than what we would like, and it's a very important part of our CWD surveillance," DNR big game program leader Barbara Keller told the Star Tribune.
In order to get the word out, the DNR plans to send out postcards to hunters asking them to submit deer for CWD testing.