LANSING—Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials announced today that they have found Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a Meridian Township deer. The fatal neurological disease is transmitted among cervids (like deer and elk) through saliva and other fluids in deer and causes them to become emaciated and display odd behavior before succumbing to it. This is the first time that CWD has been found in a wild deer in Michigan.
“Our response to this initial positive deer is consistent with our Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan,” said Chad Stewart, deer and elk specialist for the DNR. “We’ve identified a three-county zone within ten miles of the infected deer. Within this zone, we will have our entire array of deer hunting seasons available, including early antlerless. We will also make additional antlerless licenses available and initiate a prohibition on feeding and baiting within this zone.”
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), Michigan’s largest statewide conservation organization representing over 40,000 hunters, anglers and trappers, urges hunters to cooperate with the DNR’s CWD Response Plan. Baiting congregates deer and can speed the transmission of the disease. Additionally, hunters who harvest a deer in the surveillance area will be required to check their deer.
“Today’s announcement that a CWD-positive deer has been detected in Michigan’s wild deer herd is nothing short of tragic and today is a day many of us hoped would never come, though it is not wholly unexpected.” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of MUCC. “Michigan’s DNR is a national leader in planning for wildlife disease response and MUCC members know they will move swiftly to implement their response plan.”
“MUCC stands ready to assist the DNR in controlling and eradicating this devastating disease in any way we can,” said Eichinger. “We encourage all hunters to do the same.”
“Michigan has a long tradition of hunter support and conservation ethics. Now, with the CWD finding, that support is needed more than ever,” said Steve Schmitt, veterinarian at the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab, in a statement. “Historically, areas where chronic wasting disease has been found have experienced a decline in hunter numbers. Because hunters are often familiar with the deer herd locally, one of the best things they can do to help manage this disease is to continue hunting and bring their deer to check stations this season.”
The infected six-year-old doe (pictured) weighed just 93 pounds, below the average for a mature doe. Genetic testing confirmed that the doe was a local, free-ranging Ingham County deer, not an escapee from a captive cervid facility. The deer had been reported by local residents concerned about its odd behavior. CWD was last found in a captive cervid facility in Kent County in 2008, triggering an earlier version of the CWD Response Plan at that time.
Founded in 1937, Michigan United Conservation Clubs is the largest statewide conservation organization in Michigan. Its mission is to unite citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage.