Minnesota conservation officials on Monday expanded bans on feeding deer after finding multiple captive deer infected with chronic wasting disease at farms in Crow Wing and Meeker counties.

The new feeding ban is in place until February 2019 for 11 central and north-central Minnesota counties surrounding those farms. A similar ban continues for five southeastern Minnesota counties, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

“Feeding bans in central and north-central Minnesota are precautionary,” said Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s wildlife research manager, said in a statement. “Wild deer in these areas are not know to have CWD. These feeding bans are a proactive step to keep CWD at bay.”

CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose, but is not known to affect human health.

The central Minnesota counties affected by the ban are Kandiyohi; McCloud; Meeker; Stearns; Wright; and the portion of Renville County north of U.S. Highway 212. North-central Minnesota counties affected are Aitkin; Crow Wing; Morrison; the portion of Cass County south of Minnesota highways 34 and 200; and the portion of Mille Lacs County north of County Road 11.

As a precaution, the agency said it will be testing in those 11 counties to determine whether the disease may have spread from captive to wild deer. Samples will be collected from 5,400 deer harvested in permit areas immediately surrounding CWD-infected farms near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County.

The feeding ban in southeastern Minnesota also includes fluids such as deer urine, blood and gland oil. It’s been in place in Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted, Mower and Winona counties since December and is in effect until June 2018.

“Feed is not just a pile of corn or grain,” Cornicelli said. “It includes salt and mineral blocks that many hunters use as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay and other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer.”

Not feeding deer is a simple step citizens can take to help prevent the spread of disease, Cornicelli added. “Although well-intentioned, feeding wildlife often does more harm than good.”

People who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that prevents access by deer or places the food at least six feet above the ground, the DNR noted.

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