February 07, 2019 10:48 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- As Minnesota works to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state's deer population, researchers at the University of Minnesota think they've found a solution to a significant hurdle relating to testing deer for the disease. Now, they're asking lawmakers to give them the money to make it happen.
Currently, only dead deer can be tested for the always-fatal disease, which is highly contagious and has been found in nearly half of the country, but Pam Skinner, a professor at the university's veterinary and biomedical sciences department, has come up with a way to test deer while they're still alive.
"The development of these products would allow us to detect chronic wasting disease at a very early stage in the disease process," Skinner said. "Once an animal is infected, it takes a couple of years, it can be shedding in the environment and if we can detect it earlier and depopulate infected animals that could by itself help reduce the spread."
CWD has been found in increasing numbers of deer in Minnesota since 2016, primarily in Fillmore and Houston Counties. The Department of Natural Resources confirmed 17 cases of the disease in 2018 and four already in 2019. Another two deer tested in 2019 are suspected to have had CWD.
To combat the disease's spread, the DNR in December created an additional hunting season and offered special shooting permits to landowners in the most impacted areas, but state Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) wants to see more done to avoid needlessly thinning the wild deer population to test the animals for disease.
"Right now the DNR has extended the hunting season, the DNR has brought in sharpshooters to pick out deer, but I'm very excited that this test could be perfected (so) that it'll stop having to do a lot of that," Davids said.
He and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) are working on a bill that would provide $1.8 million in funding for research and development of the live test, a process Skinner expects will take around two years and a number of researchers to fully develop. If it's successful, it could be replicated elsewhere.
"These assays could help reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease, save money, but also potentially with (intellectual property) that might be patented lead to a revenue stream for the University of Minnesota," she said.
The bill is expected to be officially introduced Monday. Two other bills relating to CWD have been introduced in the House so far this session:
HF950 would provide $1,560,000 in the fiscal year 2020 for wildlife disease surveillance and response, including $208,000 for responding to deer that escape from deer farms.
HF305 would allocate funds for a white-tailed deer herd buyout program.
Updated: February 07, 2019 10:48 PM
Created: February 07, 2019 09:43 PM
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