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DNR detects TB-positive deer in northwest Minnesota

The discovery of another tuberculosis-positive deer in northwestern Minnesota indicates the state's aggressive approach to disease control is appropriate.

"Finding another TB-positive deer was not a surprise," said Michelle Carstensen, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife health program coordinator. "We know the disease has existed in a small area in northwestern Minnesota, which is why we have focused our resources there. This finding proves our intensive deer surveillance and control efforts are working, eliminating both at-risk and TB-infected deer."

The TB-positive deer was a 6-year-old male, and showed clinical signs of bovine TB, which was later confirmed by laboratory analysis. No other deer removed this winter exhibited similar signs of infection.

The finding reinforces the need to continue reducing deer densities said Minnesota TB Coordinator Joe Martin.

"This should not delay Minnesota's goal of regaining TB-Free Status," said Martin. "We have been in contact with the United States Department of Agriculture, and they have assured us this finding in the deer will not impact cattle movements or the state's TB status."

The state's status is only impacted by finding additional TB-positive cattle herds. The last known infected herd was depopulated earlier this year as part of the state's buy-out program. There are no other active cattle investigations ongoing at this time.

The DNR has conducted surveillance for TB in hunter-harvested deer within a 15-mile radius of the once-infected farms every fall since 2005. To date, more than 6,000 deer taken by hunters and sharp-shooters have been tested.

"All of the 25 infected deer detected since testing began in 2005 have been born in 2005 or earlier, and were taken within the core area," said Carstensen. "The older ages of infected deer, the lack of infection in younger deer and the close proximity of infected deer suggest the disease is not efficiently spreading in the deer population."

The DNR sampled 1,246 deer taken in the Bovine TB Surveillance Zone during the fall 2008 hunt. Spring sharp-shooting efforts, that began in March and concluded April 30, have resulted in an additional 738 deer being removed near previously infected cattle operations inside the Management Zone.

The DNR will continue monitoring for the disease through sampling of hunter-harvested deer. Hunter-harvested surveillance will be conducted within the larger Bovine TB Surveillance Zone in fall 2009, with a sampling goal of 1,800 deer. Surveillance will continue every year until no positive animals are detected for five consecutive years.