DNR announces changes in battle against bovine TB

Farmers and ranchers in northwest Minnesota areas of confirmed bovine tuberculosis can shoot deer without a permit starting Monday, the state Department of Natural Resources announced Friday.

Farmers and ranchers in northwest Minnesota areas of confirmed bovine tuberculosis can shoot deer without a permit starting Monday, the state Department of Natural Resources announced Friday.

Eleven cattle herds have been found infected with bovine TB since July 2005, four since October which has caused the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider stricter rules for the movement of cattle across state borders.

Many believe the infection is being passed along by open-range white-tail deer and elk.

The DNR's emergency rule issued Friday allows landowners, tenants and their designated agents to shoot deer without a permit on their property with a firearm, bow or muzzleloader at any time.

The emergency rule goes into effect Monday and continues through Aug. 31, according to a statement posted on the DNR Web site.


In a DNR e-mail Friday night, the agency said DNR and state Board of Animal Health officials will go over the emergency rule and deer eradication efforts in a media event 10:30 am. Monday at the DNR's Wannaska Forestry Office south of Roseau and in a teleconference.

"The new landowner/tenant zone comprises a 934-square-mile area of portions of Beltrami, Marshall, Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties," the e-mail said. "The rule was enacted as part of an overall strategy including expanded and special hunts and ongoing contracts with U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters. During the first two weeks in April, the DNR also will hire an aircraft to supplement sharpshooting efforts."

The area includes deer permit Area 101 and an expanded area north to the Canadian border, the DNR said on its Web site. The expanded area is bounded on the west by state Highways 89 and 310 and on the east by the Thompson Forest Road, County Road 5 and state Highways 11 and 313.

Details, including a map of the area and the specific rule restrictions, are available from area DNR offices or on the DNR Web site at

"Implementing this emergency rule is another tool to help get ahead of this disease and ensure it doesn't persist in Minnesota's deer population," said Paul Telander, DNR regional wildlife manager in northwestern Minnesota.

The rule will allow deer of any age or sex to be taken without limit or license, provided that before transporting the deer, landowners and tenants tag each deer taken with their name; the township, range and section where the kill took place; and, the date of the kill, the DNR said.

All deer must be field dressed at the time of the kill and carcasses -- or heads if deer are retained in possession -- must be taken to the Wannaska Forestry Office, Grygla Forestry Office, Thief Lake Wildlife Office, Olson's Skime Store or DJ's Salol Store within 48 hours of the kill so they can be tested. Possession tags are required for all deer retained in possession, with tags for both possession and transportation available at the drop-off points.

The DNR said that as the weather warms, a refrigerated truck will be stationed at Olson's Skime Store, with landowners and tenants asked to bring in their deer carcasses as soon as possible.


The DNR said another effort of eradication deer in that area has the state contracting with U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters. The dozen shooters took 351 deer in one day.

The new rule replaces the permitting process, Telander said, which previously had allowed landowners since March 18 to shoot deer with a permit. To date, 50 permits have been issued and 33 deer taken. Samples also have been taken from three elk.

Using an aircraft to assist sharpshooters in the first two weeks of April will mean the DNR will close all wildlife management areas within the bovine TB management area, which is deer permit Area 101, Telander said.

WMAs scheduled to be closed include Golden Valley, Grygla, Hayes, Marbel, Mickinock, Moose River, Palmville, Wannaska, Wapiti and portions of Reed Lake and Thief Lake. State forest roads to be signed closed beginning Monday are Morehouse, Stotts, Winner, Neheim, Penturen, Summer, North Moose River Dike, Moose River West, Moose River East, Luxemberger, Highwood East and West, Tofte, Palsberg, Black's Winner, Root, Mortenson, River Road (east of the private cabins) and Thompson.

"We need to keep the pressure on deer within this small area to reduce the risk of this disease becoming established in the deer population," Telander said. "The prevalence of the disease in wild deer remains low and is restricted to a small geographic region."

DNR officials tested more than 1,100 hunter-harvested deer for bovine TB in 2007, discovering four infected animals. A total of 17 deer have been found infected since the DNR started testing in 2005.

Beltrami County Commissioners Ron Otterstad and Joe Vene were among a Bemidji Day at the Capitol delegation meeting Tuesday with Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, who asked about bovine TB efforts.

Skoe introduced a bill earlier this month to establish a bovine tuberculosis management zone defined as an area within a 10-mile radius around the five presumptive TB-positive deer sampled during a fall 2006 hunter-harvested surveillance effort.


Cattle owners with herds located in the zone must:

-- Apply to the Board of Animal Health to remove the herd from the farm and keep off the farm until the area is raised to a Tuberculosis-Free designation by the USDA, or

-- Demonstrate that the cattle herd is kept in a manner that does not allow cattle and deer to interface.

-- All cattle herds within the zone must have fences around winter feeding areas and stored forage crops.

Skoe's bill also amends state law for the control of bovine TB, if the USDA reclassifies the state or a zone with a more restrictive Modified Accredited status.

"It will probably affect 200 herds in that area," Skoe said.

He doubted state money would be available to buy out herds in the affected area, due to the state's budget deficit situation. Skoe estimated it would cost $5 million to buy out herds.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who met with farmers and ranchers in Roseau earlier this month, said he would support a voluntary buyout program for 19 herds in the infected area, totaling about 1,000 head of cattle, as long as there were incentives to restart operations later.


While bovine TB is contagious among animals, it is not harmful to humans, officials say.

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