Positions announced this week by the Minnesota Deer Hunting Association may prove significant on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are weighing on a series of proposals for deer destruction that face resistance from a representative group many of the state's 400 deer and elk farms.
Here are some of the group's wishes:
• Mandatory killing of all cervids in all deer farms with a positive diagnosis of CWD. Many livestock farms are subject to this requirement for other contagious diseases, but deer and elk farms are treated differently today.
• Prohibit the transportation of deer in captivity – and even blood and semen – into and out of the state. This touches the heart of the deer hunting industry, whose main objective is to produce bigger bucks with bigger woods for the controversial practice of hunting on private reserves.
• Prohibit new deer or elk farms from starting in Minnesota, offering existing farms voluntary buy-backs and increasing fencing requirements to prevent animals from escaping.
• Removal of restrictions on timber, which are essentially a minimum size requirement for hunters who are shooting money in the fall, in the southeastern part of the state. These are groups of hunters who initially requested restrictions.
• Double 50 cents on each deer license to help finance the health of the deer license.
"The members of the MDHA recognize that CWD is the biggest threat to the wild deer herd in Minnesota and North America," said Craig Engwall, Executive Director of the Hunters Group. "MDHA, as the leading deer defense organization in Minnesota, will do everything in its power to protect the deer and deer hunting tradition in Minnesota."
Why it's a big problem
In the last ten years, while the disease, which is still fatal for deer, has spread throughout Wisconsin and several other states, Minnesota has remained largely isolated, with only sporadic cases. Minnesota hunter groups have remained largely on the sidelines, along with most lawmakers. While wildlife officials were monitoring the disease, proposals such as these have been launched, but they have never received much attention.
However, the state is currently at the heart of the largest epidemic to date – and is located in southeastern Minnesota, home to some of the most popular and richest deer. Since 2009, more than 40 wild deer have been tested positive. It is suspected that the outbreak began in a deer farm.
The mobilization of hunter groups behind a coherent set of priorities creates a situation that is difficult for legislators to ignore.
Bluffland Whitetails, a smaller but important group of deer hunters, which has been one of the drivers of wood restrictions, also supports the bulk of the MDHA platform, many of which are already in the legislators' proposals. .
"We have been asking for more debates on this topic for years, and this is finally happening," said John Zanmiller, Bluffland Whitetails' volunteer lawyer. "I think the more people hear about it, the more they will insist on action. It is the year to do something about it. "
Skeptical deer farms
Deer groups have started a counteroffensive, bringing together lawmakers and the media with information that casts doubt on the seriousness of deer disease and its links with deer farms.
Tim Spreck, a lobbyist representing about 100 deer owners owned by the Minnesota Deer Farmers Association, said deer farms wanted to work with lawmakers to stop the spread of CWD, but they felt unjustly targeted.
"There is too much finger pointing on deer farms, while there are other things that also require attention," Spreck said.
Spreck listed several areas that experts in animal and animal health have also highlighted as potential vectors for the spread of chronic debilitating disease, including taxidermists, carcass disposal and hunters who bring deer back that they slaughtered in Minnesota – which is already banned, but it is generally believed that they have a questionable level of compliance.
Deer keepers are not necessarily opposed to some of the items on the MDHA's agenda, but taxpayers will have to help pay for the changes, such as installing additional and taller fences.
"These people have entered a legal business and now want to change the rules," he said.
Many proposals have democratic support in the Democrat-controlled House. We still do not know what support they will have in the Senate controlled by the Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, himself a deer hunter, said he wanted to fight the disease while ensuring that the solutions are science-based.
There is no treatment or treatment for MDC. The basic strategy for containing a wild outbreak is to kill as many deer as possible and control them until you have several years in a row without any positive results.