State seeks changes in its CWD plan
Lansing — Wildlife officials have revised the state’s response plan for chronic wasting disease to better respond to outbreaks and prepare for the possibility of new cases near the Michigan-Wisconsin border.
Russ Mason, Michigan DNR Wildlife Division chief, told Michigan Outdoor News the new plan would represent a more regionalized, custom approach to CWD outbreaks that would allow officials to safely contain the disease without imposing a baiting ban or surveillance efforts across the entire peninsula.
“We are breaking it down to a more regionalized approach … where a ban might be for a county or a county and the counties touching it. What we want to do is move away from the plan we have right now, which would trigger a peninsula-wide ban” if CWD is discovered, Mason said. “The draft revisions have been sent to the regional deer advisory teams, and the revision will be presented for information in front of the Natural Resources Commission in June, with action on it in July.
“We’re moving quickly because a recent incident in Shell Lake, Wis., is close to our border” in the Upper Peninsula, he said.
Wisconsin officials announced a confirmed case of CWD found in that state’s northern deer herd near Shell Lake last month. Shell Lake is about 100 miles from the Michigan border.
Officials left flexibility in the revised plan to implement baiting restrictions and surveillance tailored to each specific case, Mason said. For example, a CWD outbreak in migratory deer in the Upper Peninsula likely would require a larger baiting and feeding ban and bigger surveillance area than an outbreak among southern Michigan deer, which typically do not travel as far.
Brent Rudolph, DNR deer and elk program leader, said the revised plan also would reduce the workload and expense of monitoring deer for the disease by eliminating statewide random testing.
“It’s pretty expensive to continue to do the random testing. There is a limited return on the investment of doing a lot of testing,” Rudolph said.
Under the new plan, “If we find any positive deer, we would do a great deal of surveillance in that area,” he said.
Ryan Ratajczak, president of the northwest Michigan chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association, said he believes the customizable approach to CWD makes sense, but questions whether it would create problems for enforcing a baiting or feeding ban.
“I think to look at it and say what’s the potential for the spread of the disease … is something you have to look at region by region,” he said. “One of the issues we had with the last baiting ban is they could still sell bait, which created enforcement issues.
“I think it would be even tougher to enforce a ban for specific areas.”
Mason said he expects the changes to go into effect this summer.
“We are not going to be vetting this through listening sessions throughout the state,” he said. “We want to get it done before we get that first case” from Wisconsin.
Michigan wildlife officials lifted a baiting ban on the Lower Peninsula in 2011 after instituting the measure and surveillance efforts in response to a single captive deer found with CWD in Kent County in 2008.