MI: Testing finds no CWD in state’s deer herd

Lansing – After three years of aggressive testing, state
veterinarians have not found any chronic wasting disease in the
state’s free-ranging white-tailed deer herd.

The majority of deer tested each year – for CWD, bovine TB and
other wildlife diseases – come from hunter-harvested deer. As of
Jan. 13, DNRE veterinarian Dr. Steven Schmitt said 888 deer had
been tested from the 2010 hunting season and, “no CWD has been
found so far.”

Results of TB testing take a little longer because there is a six-
to eight-week incubation period on suspect cultures. Schmitt said
results of the TB testing will be available in early March.

Of the 888 whitetails tested for CWD in 2010 and early 2011, most
were from the nine-township CWD Zone in Kent County – Tyrone,
Solon, Nelson, Sparta, Algoma, Courtland, Alpine, Plainfield, and
Cannon. That’s the only area of the state where active CWD
surveillance is now taking place.

“Our goal was to check every deer killed by a hunter in the nine
townships. Everything taken there was supposed to go to a check
station,” Schmitt said. “In the rest of the state, if a deer is
showing neurological symptoms – acting strangely or is skinny – we
will check it for CWD. We get about 75 of them each year, but so
far none have been positive for CWD.”

The state DNRE and Department of Agriculture, announced on Aug. 25,
2008 that a 3-year-old doe culled from a deer farm in northwest
Kent County had tested positive for CWD. Since then, DNRE officials
have tested more than 33,000 free-ranging whitetails, 1,500 elk,
and 60 moose, and all have tested negative. On the Department of
Agriculture side, state vets have tested 14,000 captive cervids
from high-fenced deer farms and ranches, including 1,141 last
year.

“We’ve had none test positive beyond that one positive animal (in
Kent County),” Ag veterinarian Dr. Steve Halstead said. “It’s been
a mystery to us, just like it has been to a lot of people. We just
don’t know how it (CWD) came about.

“The good news is that the extensive testing of farmed cervids and
wild animals has all been negative.”

There is no evidence that CWD presents a risk to humans.

“At first we didn’t know if it came in from the wild, or if it
spilled in from a captive herd,” Schmitt said. “Three years of
testing doesn’t guarantee that (CWD) is not there, but after three
years we feel much better that it’s not. After three years, if it
was there you would think we would have seen it by now.”

Schmitt said CWD testing will continue, but at a reduced
level.

“We will continue to test statewide, any deer that shows
neurological symptoms, and we’ll still test deer in Kent County,
but at a much lower level than what we are doing now,” Schmitt
said.

As for cervid farms and ranches, “We plan on maintaining our
requirement for testing,” Halstead said.

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