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Minnesota reports good news on Bovine TB front

From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

-- Bovine tuberculosis (TB) tests were negative for 450 wild deer removed from northwestern Minnesota early this year as part of disease eradication efforts by sharpshooting.

Since bovine TB surveillance efforts began in 2005, 27 deer have tested positive for the disease. The most-recent case occurred in fall 2009 from a hunter harvested deer. As a result, DNR expanded the area where sharpshooters took samples earlier this year.

The last TB-infected cattle herd was found more than a year and a half ago in northwestern Minnesota. Area producers continue to test their cattle in an effort to ensure the elimination of the disease and to improve the state's TB status levels, an event that the Minnesota Board of Animal Health expects to happen this October.

The DNR will sample 1,000 deer in the area this fall and winter as part of its ongoing surveillance efforts, a decrease from last year's requirement that 1,800 deer be sampled. The higher number was difficult to achieve because of increased harvest and aggressive removal strategies. Sampling a lower number of deer also may lessen the need for sharpshooters to remove additional deer after hunting season.

"The lab results are encouraging for the DNR as well as our hunters," said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program coordinator. "This may be a sign that we've turned a corner in eradicating the disease from deer in northwestern Minnesota. The fact that no additional deer tested positive in the same area is good news. The prevalence of the disease in wild deer continues to decrease and the geographic extent of the positive cases remains very small."

To help meet its sampling goals, DNR requires that all deer taken in deer permit areas 101, 105, 111, 203, 208, 267 and 268 be registered at a big game registration station to legally transport the harvested animal. In-person registration allows DNR staff to obtain tissue samples for testing.

"Our success at meeting surveillance goals depends on the cooperation of hunters," Carstensen said. "The more deer hunters bring in for sampling, the fewer deer DNR must remove using sharpshooters, leaving more deer for hunters the next fall."

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