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North Dakota deer hunters in Unit 2B won't be able to bait for deer next fall, Game and Fish says

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed off on the baiting restrictions Tuesday, March 1, in the 2022-2023 Chronic Wasting Disease Proclamation.

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North Dakota deer hunting units with baiting restrictions in 2022.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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BISMARCK – As expected, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department will implement a baiting ban for deer hunters next fall in Unit 2B along the Red River between Grand Forks and south of Fargo after chronic wasting disease was found in a whitetail buck shot in October during the youth deer season near Climax, Minnesota, on the east side of the river.

Game and Fish traditionally implements baiting bans in units where CWD is detected or units that are near CWD-positive areas. Gov. Doug Burgum signed off on the baiting restrictions Tuesday, March 1, in the 2022-2023 Chronic Wasting Disease Proclamation.

State officials have now discovered 70 positive cases since 2009, the year the disease was first detected in North Dakota.

“Any unit that falls within 25 miles of a previous detection, where that deer was found we apply a baiting restriction,” said Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian, North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian, North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, CWD affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose and is always fatal. Testing efforts by Game and Fish detected 26 new cases of CWD in deer last fall, up from 18 new detections in 2020: 14 from Unit 3F2, eight from 3A1, one from 3B1, and first-time detections in 3C, 3D1 and 3E2.

In addition to 2B, Game and Fish will implement new baiting restrictions in the three units with first-time cases, along with units 4D, 4E and 4F in the southwest part of the state and Unit 1 in north-central North Dakota, all of which fall within 25 miles of CWD-positive areas.

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Unit 2C north of Grand Forks almost fell within the restricted area, as well, Bahnson said, but was just beyond the 25-mile parameter.

With the additional units, 20 of North Dakota’s 38 deer hunting units, including nearly all of western North Dakota, will have baiting restrictions in place next fall.

The governor’s CWD proclamation also includes carcass transportation restrictions for deer hunting units 3A1, 3A2, 3B1, 4B, 4C, 3D1, 3E2, 3F2 and 3C; elk hunting units E2 and E6; and moose hunting units M10 and M11.

Last-minute testing

Following the surprise detection of CWD last October near Climax, the Game and Fish Department implemented last-minute testing efforts during the deer gun season in Unit 2B and sampled 92 deer, Bahnson said, none of which tested positive.

In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources tested 234 deer in deer permit areas 261 and 262 along the Red River and no additional deer tested positive, other than the buck shot in October, which was voluntarily tested by the youth hunter’s father.

DPAs 261 and 262.JPG
Minnesota deer permit areas 261 and 262 along the Red River.
Contributed / Minnesota DNR

That’s good news, but the single case in Minnesota still suggests CWD is somewhere on the landscape, and the risk will persist, Bahnson says.

“Once we have a detection out there, we kind of assume there’s probably still a really low prevalence or level of the disease out there,” he said. “It’s kind of difficult to confirm the absence of a disease – you kind of assume that it may still be out there, but we simply didn’t test enough to find it.

“At the same time, the number (of deer) that we tested on both sides of the river would suggest the infection rate is quite, quite low.”

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Game and Fish has now confirmed CWD in 70 deer since the disease first was detected in 2009 in Unit 3F2 of southern North Dakota. Game and Fish estimates about 5% of adult mule deer and 3% of adult whitetails in 3F2 are infected, Bahnson says.

“At least in mule deer, that was fairly stable from last year, which was a good thing,” Bahnson said.

Another hotspot is Unit 3A1, where the prevalence rate increased to about 7% in adult mule deer, Bahnson says, up from about 2% in 2020.

“That’s certainly a pattern we’re disappointed to see,” he said. “In other units where we have detected (CWD), it’s probably below 1% – it’s just kind of a one or two deer a year sort of thing so far. That’s about where we’re at with it.”

In addition to affected hunting units for deer, elk and moose, baiting also is illegal on North Dakota wildlife management areas and federal lands. Baiting for deer is illegal everywhere in Minnesota, and the DNR in January expanded feeding and attractant bans to include much of northwest Minnesota. In addition, the DNR requires that bird feeders be placed at least 6 feet off the ground to minimize the odds of attracting deer.

According to DNR statistics, 148 wild deer in Minnesota have tested positive for CWD since 2010, when the disease was detected in the state’s wild deer herd.

NDGF Whitetail buck.jpg
North Dakota deer hunters in Unit 2B along the Red River will no longer be able to bait for deer under the chronic wasting disease proclamation Gov. Doug Burgum signed Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Several other units in the state also face baiting restrictions under the proclamation.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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