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Sharpshooters' success eliminates need for special spring hunt in bovine TB area

Sharpshooters, hunters and landowners have taken 1,028 deer as part of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources efforts to stop the potential spread of bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota.

"Successful sharpshooting efforts have eliminated the need for a special disease hunt on public lands this spring," said Paul Telander, DNR northwest region wildlife manager.

Deer population in the 164 square-mile core of the management area was estimated at about 800 animals during an aerial survey conducted in January before sharpshooting efforts began.

As of April 14, Telander said, aerial sharpshooters had taken 416 deer and ground sharpshooters 398 animals in and near the core area, for a total of 814 animals in 2008.

In addition, landowners have taken 94 deer in an expanded area, and a special early January hunt conducted in the deer permit area 101 resulted in hunters harvesting 120 animals.

In 2007, deer population in the 164 square-mile core area was estimated at about 920 animals and sharpshooters took 488 deer.

"Our intent is to keep pressure on this small portion of Minnesota's 1.2 million wild deer herd until the disease is eliminated," Telander said.

"Targeting deer reduction efforts to the smallest possible area minimizes impacts on the deer herd while effectively addressing bovine TB management needs," Telander said.

Since bovine TB first was detected in cattle in 2005, 18 deer have tested bovine TB-positive.

The University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine does initial screenings on the deer to detect likely positives. These are then sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation.

Laboratory results are pending on the 1,028 additional deer taken since January 2008. Preliminary results indicate that eight additional deer may be infected.

All of the confirmed positive deer as well as the suspect deer are adults and were alive in 2005 when bovine TB was first discovered in the area. The prevalence of the disease in wild deer still remains low and is restricted to a small geographic region.

While aerial sharpshooting has concluded, ground sharpshooters will resume their efforts today through at least the end of April.

A special rule allows landowners, tenants and their designees to take deer without a permit through Aug. 31. Special and expanded hunts also are being planned for fall 2008 and winter 2009.