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Our Opinion: Do it right when it comes to CWD

While we wait on the results of chronic wasting disease testing on wild deer taken near Merrifield, it's encouraging to see the urgency with which local and state officials have responded to the potential problem.

The ideal outcome would be that all testing for CWD would come back negative. That's what we hope for but realistically, we also have to be prepared for the worst.

This latest bout with CWD should be a wake-up call, not just to local hunters or wildlife advocates but to our elected officials in St. Paul and in Washington, D.C. Action needs to be taken not only to prevent CWD from spreading, if that is found to be the case, but also to prevent a similar scenario from happening in the future.

The infected wild deer was found dead Jan. 23 by Upper Mission Lake, in close proximity to a game farm in which seven confirmed cases of CWD have been reported in captive deer as of 2018.

Chronic wasting disease is a degenerative neurological disease that will ravage the brain and body, eventually killing the animals. Unlike viruses, bacteria or fungi, CWD manifests in malformed proteins, or prions, which cannot be treated by virtually any traditional anti-pathogenic method.

Following the Feb. 14 confirmation of CWD in the wild deer a lot of things have happened in quick order. Landowners of 10 acres or more within a 2-mile radius of the game farm were permitted to kill deer to be tested for CWD. Federal wildlife specialists also have been killing deer to be tested in a 2-mile radius around where the infected deer was found. Those distances were selected as a deer's average home range is about 1 mile.

At the state level, legislators in the Minnesota House and Senate—including local legislators Sen. Carrie Ruud and Rep. Josh Heintzeman—have introduced numerous bills regarding chronic wasting disease. The bills include creating task forces, buyout programs for game farms, funding for CWD testing, moratoriums on possessing captive deer and creating an carcass a disposal program.

These efforts and proposals are working toward immediate and long-term solutions, which is exactly what we should be doing when it comes to CWD. Let's hope that our elected officials in St. Paul have the fortitude to make them a reality.

We understand the issue is a sensitive one for many people, especially those who live in the Merrifield area. But not being proactive and simply hoping the wild deer killed to be tested are negative for CWD is not an option. There's just too much at risk.

What we don't want is for the Brainerd area, or any part of Minnesota, to become like several counties in southern Wisconsin, where CWD has infected up to 50 percent of tested deer.

Make no mistake—CWD is a serious problem that, if left unchecked, could be devastating for the Brainerd lakes area. Not just for deer hunters, but for anyone who appreciates our wildlife.

Education of CWD is critical, as is political will at the Minnesota Legislature to pass effective laws to stem its spread now and in the future.

It's up to all of us—hunters, landowners, game farm owners, elected and appointed officials—to do everything we can to prevent, stop and, hopefully, eradicate CWD from the Brainerd lakes area. Not doing so would be a failure and we must act now.

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