FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sharpshooting underway in bovine TB deer area (February 24, 2009)
Sharpshooters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are once again helping the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to further reduce the deer population in the bovine tuberculosis (TB) core area in northwestern Minnesota.
The sharpshooting and disease-testing efforts will continue on the ground through the first part of April, aided for up to two weeks by an aerial deer removal operation scheduled for mid-March. Ground operations may be extended if warranted.
"Our continued goal is complete eradication of bovine TB from Minnesota," said Ed Boggess, deputy director with the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. "The state's aggressive approach remains the best chance of relatively short-term actions achieving long-term benefits for wild deer and livestock in Minnesota."
DNR helicopter surveys completed in early February show that there are about 660 deer, an estimated 4.1 deer per square mile, in the 164-square-mile bovine TB core area. Last year, similar helicopter surveys in the same area showed 800 deer, about five deer per square mile.
During Feb-April 2008, ground and aerial sharpshooters took 937 deer from the core area. Six animals tested positive, bringing the total number of infected deer to 24 since surveillance efforts began in 2005.
Also, landowners harvested 125 deer throughout the landowner/tenant shooting zone. None of these deer were positive for bovine TB. Final results should be available by mid-summer for the 1,246 hunter-harvested deer that that the DNR sampled during the 2008 fall hunting seasons.
"The good news is that none of last year's hunter-harvested deer showed any obvious clinical signs of bovine TB, and the prevalence of disease remains low and is restricted to a small area," said Dr. Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program coordinator. "However, we obtained few samples from the bovine TB core area and there are still many deer in that area. We need to keep the pressure on these deer to reduce the risk of this disease becoming established in the herd."
Every infected deer was born on or before 2005, and has been taken within just five miles of a cluster of four bovine TB-infected cattle farms.
Those interested in obtaining field-dressed carcasses that show no signs of infection can place their name on a waiting list by contacting Thief Lake Wildlife Management office at 218-222-3747
For more on DNR's TB eradication efforts go to www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/tb.
For more on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health's overall coordination of the state bovine TB response, go to www.bah.state.mn.us/tb.