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Tribal nations partner with DNR to uncover CWD-positive deer in permit area 184

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and tribal nations are working closely together to respond to the threat of chronic wasting disease.

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Four sampling stations were set up in the Bemidji area for the CWD management late hunt Dec. 16-18, 2022, at South Cenex, Beltrami County Fairgrounds, Lake George and Becida.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and tribal nations are working closely together to respond to the threat of chronic wasting disease.

“Like the DNR, tribal nations are concerned about CWD,” said Tanya Roerick, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe wildlife biologist. “Deer are a culturally important species and a main source of meat for many tribal members.”

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation have been conducting CWD testing for the past few deer hunting seasons and have not detected any positive CWD deer. These tribes plan to continue CWD testing for the foreseeable future.

Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Nation are near or within CWD surveillance or management zones in the northwestern part of the state, where the disease has been detected in cervid farm deer and wild deer.

These tribes are playing a critical role in CWD surveillance and fund their efforts through grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Red Lake Nation has been conducting CWD sampling of deer taken on tribal lands by tribal hunters on and off since 2007.

Fond du Lac and Grand Portage tribes, as well as the 1854 Treaty Authority, also conduct testing on tribal lands in Minnesota.

For the past two years, Leech Lake Tribal College students have assisted DNR staff at CWD sampling stations in the Bemidji area. There is also a large effort by many tribes across the nation to coordinate CWD sampling efforts.

“CWD surveillance is important to our tribal partners,” said Blane Klemek, DNR northwest region wildlife manager. “They conduct their own sampling, engage their hunters and communicate their findings to the DNR wildlife health program.”

This past deer hunting season, tribal biologists collected 298 total samples from deer submitted for sampling by Red Lake, Leech Lake, and White Earth tribal hunters. To date, CWD has not been detected in any of the deer sampled, though some results are still pending.

However, DNR sampling efforts in the surveillance area that includes deer permit areas in parts or all of Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, and Koochiching counties resulted in two detections out of 1,472 deer tested for CWD. Two adult males, 6 miles apart, in the southern part of DPA 184 south of Bemidji tested positive for the disease.

In response to these positive cases, the DNR is following the CWD Surveillance and Management Response Plan at mndnr.gov/cwd/cwd-response-plan.

The goals of the management response to CWD detection are to: 1) act aggressively to eliminate the disease, if possible, 2) prevent or minimize disease spread, 3) collect adequate samples to monitor disease prevalence and spread, and 4) engage stakeholders and provide accurate and current information about CWD to agency personnel, tribal partners, stakeholders, the public and legislators.

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