Another case of chronic wasting disease was found during a special January deer hunt in southeastern Minnesota, but officials say they believe they're dealing with a localized cluster and that the infection may be relatively recent.
The latest case was an adult female, killed near Preston, Minn., very close to where four other infected animals discovered, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday.
It brought to six the number of wild deer testing positive in southeastern Minnesota. Results are still pending on more than 100 samples.
CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose, but is not known to affect human health, the DNR said. Prior to the six recent discoveries, the only other wild deer with the disease found in Minnesota was harvested near Pine Island in 2010. In December, the disease was found in a deer farm in central Minnesota.
"The special hunt really illustrated how important it is to respond immediately to a wildlife health threat. Had we taken a more passive approach, the CWD positive deer would have survived another year and continued to infect healthy deer," Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said in a statement.
Of the six wild deer that tested positive for CWD, none were described as behaving abnormally, which may be further indication that the infection is recent, Cornicelli said.
Landowner shooting permits are the next defense in the DNR's plan to stop the disease from spreading. Nearly 300 shooting permits have been issued, allowing landowners to kill and remove deer from their property.
DNR staff will monitor the number of deer killed under landowner shooting permits and then make a decision about tapping the United States Department of Agriculture to remove additional deer, Cornicelli added.