Cook County becomes first in the state to ban deer and elk farms
WTIP file photo

Cook County becomes first in the state to ban deer and elk farms

The Cook County Board of Commissioners took action that will ban any deer, elk, or other cervid farms to operate locally.

In doing so, Cook County becomes the first county in Minnesota to have an outright ban on deer and elk farms.

The ban on cervid farms will prohibit deer farms in an effort to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). The unanimous vote by the county board on April 25 updates the county’s zoning ordinance to prohibit cervid farms. There are currently no cervid farms in Cook County, so the move does not impact any existing operations locally. The action taken by the board does not impact the recent arrival of a bison herd to the Grand Portage Reservation. Bison are not cervids, so the ranch at Grand Portage will not be impacted by the recent action to ban deer and elk farms in Cook County.

Chronic wasting disease affects deer, elk, reindeer, moose and other members of the cervid family. The disease is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.

In 2021, a CWD-positive deer farm was confirmed in Beltrami County. Last year, a deer tested positive for CWD in Itasca County.

This disease was first recognized in a captive deer in the late 1960’s. It has spread between deer and elk farms throughout Minnesota and other nearby states, including Wisconsin. The disease most commonly spreads within deer or elk farms and between farms when cervids are transported for breeding, slaughter, or sales. Infected farmed deer can escape from farms or transmit CWD through fences, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Last fall, both St. Louis and Carlton counties enacted moratoriums and other restrictions on new deer and elk farms. To help prevent the spread of CED, the DNR now provides kits for testing hunter-harvested deer.

Nancy Hansen is the area wildlife manager for the DNR based in Area Two Harbors Minnesota. She told WTIP last fall just before the start of hunting season that while there are currently no cases of CWD in Cook County or the immediate surrounding region, there have been positive CWD cases in Grand Rapids.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs recently spoke with Cook County Commissioner Ann Sullivan about the county-wide ban on deer farms. Audio below.