Chronic wasting disease is spreading. In a state where deer hunting is popular and economically beneficial to the state, the disease is a major concern that needs more attention.
Eighteen deer harvested in the disease management zone of southeast Minnesota had tested positive for the disease since fall 2016, the Department of Natural Resources said in early October. After this hunting season, that number is up: Early test results showed hunters in that area killed at least half a dozen more CWD-infected deer this fall.
Even if that might not seem like a high number, the uptick shows the fatal brain disease isn’t under control. No vaccine or cure yet exists. Although there is no current evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans, public health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend hunters do not consume meat from infected animals.
Deer are the No. 1 hunted species in Minnesota and deer hunters along with other hunters and wildlife watchers together contribute more than $1.3 billion to the economy, according to the DNR. Not acting swiftly on this problem could have big consequences here and elsewhere in the country.
State wildlife officials, along with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, are rightfully pushing Congress for more funding to combat CWD. They’re asking the federal Department of Agriculture to develop national tracking of CWD and coordination among states, as well as standards for transporting deer across state lines. Neighboring Wisconsin has been battling widespread outbreak of the disease, making those proposed actions key to containing the spread of the disease as much as as possible.
State and federal leaders need to take action to combat the disease before it takes a major toll on our way of life here as well as in other states that value hunting and healthy wildlife management.