Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Dakota County
On November 7, 2020, the first positive case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was confirmed in a male
deer from Dakota County in the South Metro area. CWD is a neurological disease of deer and other
related cervids like elk and moose. It has no cure and is 100% fatal. Male deer have so far been infected
with CWD at a higher rate than females. Sunfish Lake is currently in the South Metro Chronic Wasting
Disease Surveillance Area (701). The Minnesota DNR is testing for chronic wasting disease in deer
within Dakota county including several from our City’s deer management hunt. No samples from Sunfish
Lake deer tested positive for CWD this year.
Feeding deer tends to attract large numbers of deer together in one location repeatedly and that is a
way that chronic wasting disease gets spread more quickly. Dakota County plus Hennepin, Ramsey,
Washington, and Scott counties around us have deer feeding and deer attractant bans in force
currently. These bans are in force to slow the spread of CWD. Feeding means placement or distribution
of grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and hay capable of attracting or enticing deer. Attractant means using
natural or manufactured products that are capable of attracting or enticing deer including salt, minerals,
liquid food scents, or similar products.
Some folks think of deer that come to their bird feeders as their pets. Some folks feed the deer all year
when in fact the wild deer in our City do not need any extra help. Deer eat really well here by munching
our young trees, shrubs, gardens, and the grasses from our lush lawns. Deer typically are found in edge
type habitat – edge of the woodlands, edge of the meadow, near the shoreline of the lake. Sunfish Lake
has nearly 200 properties with lawns, shrubs, gardens, meadows, woodlands, streets, and lakes. These
landscape features create a lot of edge area making our City into ideal deer habitat. Feeding deer also
makes them less wild, allows them to increase population to landscape damaging levels, and those high
populations limit new forest growth by their constant feeding on tree buds.
Deer feeding, while having noble intentions, creates problems for wild deer. It’s not uncommon for
wintering deer to eat themselves to death due to grain overload – a disease called enterotaxaemia.
Supplemental feeding by providing corn, hay or other feeds tends to encourage deer to congregate
together and dramatically increases the odds that an infected animal can transmit CWD, bovine
tuberculosis, or brucellosis. Direct by nose-to-nose contact or indirect by saliva contaminated feed or
inhaling infectious particles are common disease transmission methods.
OK, so we agree that feeding deer is not a good idea in Sunfish Lake. What about feeding the birds?
Please continue feeding the birds. Bird feeders supply the same foods that birds would normally eat so
type of food is not a problem. Bird populations have had dramatic declines in recent years and helping
them out with bird feeders helps plus their colors and activity brighten up our landscapes especially
during our monochrome winter. If you have trouble keeping the deer out of your bird feeders, raise the
feeders up to 6 feet above the ground or consider temporary fencing. One past resident layered used
wine bottles under his bird feeders because the deer did not want to step on the bottles and that
method worked well too.
The bottom line is – do not feed deer in our City. It is illegal and the deer are doing just fine without the
extra food. Especially with CWD in the County feeding deer may cause more harm than good.