Another sick deer?
Meridian Township, Mich. — As hunters across the state were making final plans for the Oct. 1 bowhunting season opener, the Michigan DNR last week announced that another whitetail is likely positive for chronic wasting disease.
“It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it’s a pretty strong suspect,” DNR deer specialist Chad Stewart told Michigan Outdoor News.
Preliminary tests at Michigan’s wildlife disease lab in Lansing showed a strong likelihood that a 3.5-year-old buck from Ingham County’s Meridian Township is the eighth free-ranging white-tailed deer in Michigan to be found with the fatal neurological disease. A sample from the buck is being tested at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, to confirm the initial findings.
The latest suspect, an 8-point buck, was killed as part of the state’s CWD management plan through targeted sharpshooting, which actively removes deer that are more likely to be affected with the disease in and around areas where previously identified CWD-positive animals had been found. It was not yet showing outward signs of the disease.
“So far, the only deer that showed any physical symptoms of the disease was the first one,” Stewart said. “The other seven all looked healthy.”
The suspect buck was taken from the same area in Meridian Township that three other CWD positive deer – including the initial one – were found. To date, four CWD positive deer have been confirmed in Meridian Township in Ingham County and three in neighboring Clinton County – two in Watertown Township and one in Dewitt Township.
“We’re running some genetics to see if the buck is related to the other positive deer,” Stewart said. “So far, all of the positive deer, although not related to each other, were related to the (CWD positive) deer in Meridian Township. That indicates there is some dispersal taking place from Meridian Township and that may be ground zero. That’s all the more reason we should keep pressure on the deer in Meridian Township so the deer there won’t be as apt to disperse from social pressure.”
As of press time, more than 6,000 deer had been tested statewide with seven positives and one suspect.
Stewart stresed that hunter cooperation is important. According to a DNR report dated May 31, the state had tested 5,385 deer statewide at that time for CWD with 4,594 of those collected in the CWD Management Zone including 3,153 from the Core Area. Over 49 percent of the samples collected in the CWD Management Zone were obtained through hunter harvest (2,258) during last year’s deer hunting seasons. Collection of road-killed/found deer was the second highest contribution in the CWD Management Zone with 1,087 (24 percent) samples. Deer removed by sharpshooters totaled 769 (17 percent), while deer taken by landowners with disease control permits or crop damage permits totaled 413 (9 percent). There were 67 (1 percent) deer exhibiting symptoms consistent with CWD that were specifically targeted for removal in the Management Zone, none of which tested positive for CWD.
“The fact that we have tested so many deer and found so few positives, but that all the positives are related, gives us hope that we can contain this disease,” Stewart said.
The Core CWD Area has been expanded to now include 17 townships. This area, which is referred to as Deer Management Unit (DMU) 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. Hunters harvesting deer in these townships are required to submit the deer head for testing during business hours or check-station hours within 72 hours of harvest.
The CWD Management Zone also has expanded and includes Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia and Shiawassee counties. The expanded Management Zone has been renamed DMU 419. The price for an antlerless license in this zone has been decreased 40 percent to encourage hunters to harvest more deer and voluntarily have them checked.
There will be five check stations accepting deer for CWD testing within DMU 333. These check stations will be operating seven days a week (excluding major holidays). A complete map of check stations, including locations and hours of operation, is available at mi.gov/cwd.
Hunters are reminded that deer feeding and baiting is prohibited throughout the Core CWD Area and CWD Management Zone.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.
“This latest suspect positive reinforces the notion that the disease is still occurring in Meridian Township and perhaps elsewhere,” Stewart said. “We are counting on hunters to bring their deer in for testing so we have a better understanding about the scope of the disease.”
Some chronically CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors like losing their fear of humans, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms.
There is no cure for CWD. Once a deer is infected it will die.
To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.