National Deer Alliance Calls for Immediate Investigation of Minnesota Board of Animal Health

February 22, 2017 | by National Deer Alliance

On the heels of a scathing February 20 article by reporter Tony Kennedy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the National Deer Alliance (NDA) is calling for an immediate investigation by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor of the Board of Animal Heath, the agency responsible for oversight of the state’s 460 deer and elk farms.

A recent outbreak of chronic wasting disease (CWD) on Trophy Woods Ranch, spurred the article, which sheds light on what appears to be an overly friendly relationship between the agency and its constituents. Four other farms have received deer from the ranch. This is particularly troubling considering the threat to wild deer herds, and the resulting need for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to allocate staff and financial resources to conduct CWD surveillance.

Kennedy’s article notes that deer and elk farms contribute about $17.6 million to Minnesota’s economy each year, but that pales in comparison to the more than $500 million generated by wild deer hunting in the state, which is now being threatened. Particularly troubling is a quote in the article by Dr. Paul Anderson, the assistant director at the Board of Animal Health. Anderson stated, “We want to be careful but we don’t want to be careful to the point where people go bankrupt.” NDA’s position is that regulators should place the health of wild deer populations as a higher priority than protecting the narrow interests of these operations.

“The pursuit of wild deer is far and away the most significant segment of the overall hunting industry, both economically and in terms of the recreational and social implications,” said NDA president/CEO, Nick Pinizzotto. “Every precaution should be taken to protect the wild deer resource, and it’s troubling when you see those responsible for regulating CWD imply otherwise.”

In addition to the documented CWD outbreaks, the article states 91 deer escaped from private deer farms in 2016, and 16 were never found. Also troubling is that Board of Animal Health regulations do not require CWD-infected farms to depopulate, and instead lets them remain in business as long as no deer are imported to, or exported from, the operation. Considering the already alarming number of escapes, as well as the potential for more escapes because of poor management or situations where fences could be knocked down, it seems clear that this regulation warrants review.

“Clearly there is a strained relationship between the Board of Animal Health and the DNR, and the recent track record of CWD outbreaks and animal escapes speaks for itself,” Pinizzotto said. “Wild deer and hunters deserve better, and we are calling on the Office of the Legislative Auditor to initiate an immediate investigation.”