CWD war rages on in Lower
Lansing — Culling of white-tailed deer in Michigan’s fight against chronic wasting disease is in a bit of a lull, but the battle to contain the deadly disease rages on.
DNR deer specialist Chad Stewart told Michigan Outdoor News that it’s the “off-season” for culling while does give birth to fawns.
“We don’t have any active sharpshooters right now,” he said. “We’re getting a few road kills and deer from disease control permits but as far as surveillance goes right now we’re kind of in the off-season. The deer are really spread out over the countryside so culling is difficult. And the last thing we want to do is make an orphan of a young fawn.”
As of June 24, 5,463 free-ranging white-tailed deer had been tested for CWD in south-central Lower Michigan and seven were positive for the disease. (Those were the most recent numbers available at press time.) Four of the positives were in Ingham County’s Meridian Township. The other three were in southern Clinton County – two in Watertown Township and one in DeWitt Township.
“We have seven positives and none in the pipeline as we speak,” Dr. Dan O’Brien, a veterinarian at the DNR’s Wildlife Disease Lab in Lansing, told Michigan Outdoor News in a July 6 interview. “We’re getting some road kill and some targeted animals, but culling has ended for a while. (USDA’s) Wildlife Services won’t cull any animals in Meridian Township until after July 15 and won’t cull in Watertown or DeWitt townships until after the hunting seasons.
He said lack of cooperation from some landowners caused the DNR to adjust its management options.
“We didn’t hear much objection to the culling in Meridian Township because it’s a little more urban. There’s not as much hunting opportunity there,” O’Brien said. “In DeWitt and Watertown townships, which are more rural settings, there was less interest (in culling deer) so we want to give hunters the opportunity to kill deer and still get the numbers we need for testing and move on from there.”
O’Brien said the state is making strides in learning about the range of the disease.
Four of the seven positive deer were from Meridian Township, all within a small area.
”We’ve got two conclusions. We’ve done enough sampling in Meridian Township, because of the cooperation from landowners and the township, to know where the infected area is. We’ve tested close to 1,000 deer there and found four positives. I think we can keep that area to a minimum,” O’Brien said. “In Watertown Township we have two positives out of less that 200 deer that have been tested. That makes us a little bit nervous. We need to test more animals from that area and from DeWitt. We don’t have the numbers from those areas to really know how widespread it is there.”
Stewart said his agency is counting on hunters and landowners in Clinton County to step up and assist them in assessing the outbreak.
“We’re really relying on hunters and landowners in southern Clinton County to be part of the solution and bring us their deer for testing,” he said.
Stewart added that the DNR will start a social media campaign this week that will address rumors and help keep residents informed and updated.
“There are a lot of rumors out there,” Stewart said. “Our CWD Myth Busting Campaign was developed to set the record straight on issues and rumors as they come up.”
The DNR will be using Twitter and Facebook to get their message out and help dispel rumors.
The DNR reminds hunters that the Core Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Area has been expanded to include 17 townships. This area, which will continue to be referred to as Deer Management Unit 333, consists of Lansing, Meridian, Williamstown, Delhi, Alaiedon and Wheatfield townships in Ingham County; DeWitt, Bath, Watertown, Eagle, Westphalia, Riley, Olive and Victor townships in Clinton County; Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County, and Oneida and Delta townships in Eaton County.
The CWD Management Zone also has expanded; it now will include Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia and Shiawassee counties. The expanded management zone will be referred to as DMU 419.
Other new regulation changes include:
• Banning deer feeding and baiting on all properties within the Core CWD Area and Management Zone.
• Opening Eaton and Ionia counties to the early antlerless deer season.
• Allowing roadkill deer in the Core CWD Area to be possessed and kept with a DNR-issued salvage tag, as long as the head is submitted for testing.
To date, there is no evidence that the disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. As a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.