The Department of Natural Resources announced Monday plans to ban deer feeding in five counties as the agency fights chronic wasting disease in southeast Minnesota.

The agency announced a 370-square-mile disease management zone that will go into effect later this month in Fillmore, Houston, Mower, Olmsted and Winona counties.

The DNR also plans a special late-season deer hunt in the zone, from Dec. 31 through Jan. 15, to help prevent the disease from spreading. Details will be announced later.

A public meeting on how landowners and hunters can help the DNR manage the disease will be held Thursday in Preston.

Two deer shot by hunters near Lanesboro in November were infected with chronic wasting disease, marking the first detection of the fatal brain disease among wild deer in the state since 2010.

CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose but is not known to affect human health. While it is found in deer in states bordering southeast Minnesota, it was only found in a single other wild deer in Minnesota in 2010.

The DNR has been on the lookout for CWD since 2002, when the disease first was detected at a domestic elk farm in central Minnesota. Since, the DNR has tested approximately 50,000 deer, elk, and moose.

CWD is transmitted primarily from animal-to-animal by infectious agents in feces, urine or saliva. The disease also can persist for a long time in the environment and may be contracted from contaminated soil. The movement of live animals is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease to new areas.

Wildlife managers don’t know how the disease got to the Lanesboro area, but expect the population to rebound quickly once the threat is over.

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