Minnesota deer farm’s herd euthanized to limit chronic wasting disease

MERRIFIELD, Minn. — A Crow Wing County deer farm that’s repeatedly tested positive for chronic wasting disease is now closed following the euthanization of its herd.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Wednesday the “depopulation” of deer from the 112-acre Trophy Woods Ranch, which was first known to be infected by CWD in 2016 and has since registered numerous positive tests. The board is coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to collect tissue samples from the north-central Minnesota herd for CWD testing and stated in a news release it will report results as soon as they become available.

“We anticipate receiving CWD testing results from the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory within the coming weeks,” Board of Animal Health assistant director Linda Glaser said in the release. “We’ve already developed a herd plan with the owner on how to handle the property now that the deer are gone. At this point, any CWD positive results do not change our disease response, because we already know the site held CWD positive deer and have been treating it as such.”

CWD is a disease of the deer and elk family caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. The disease is most likely transmitted when infected deer and elk shed prions in saliva, feces, urine and other fluids or tissues. CWD is not known to naturally occur in other animals. The disease is fatal in deer and elk, and there are no known treatments or vaccines. Consuming infected meat is not advised.

The Crow Wing County deer herd, located in Merrifield, was the only CWD-positive farm in the state operating under a herd plan with live animals.

The USDA is providing indemnity to owner Kevin Schmidt for the animals as part of its overall disease control effort. The Board of Animal Health didn’t say how many deer were euthanized or how much Schmidt was paid.

A 2014 bill authorized the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Indemnity Program, which provides monetary benefits to livestock owners for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality rates due to certain adverse weather conditions, disease or attack. Payments are based on national payment rates equal to 75 percent of the livestock’s market value.

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