Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed a case of a white tailed deer that tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. The animal was initially found in Ingham County and though the state has been diligently trying to protect the deer herds, this is the first instance of the dreaded CWD in Michigan.
The game commissions of all states have been watching, testing and guarding against this disease for quite awhile now. CWD is an illness that can infect any member of the deer family and it is almost always deadly. Up until now, however, all the wild animals that have been tested in Michigan have been free of the disease.
Previously, a white tailed deer on a privately owned area of the state had tested positive for CWD, but that was back in 2008. This is the first time that the fatal disease has been found in the population of wild deer within the state.
CWD is a sickness that attacks the nervous system of infected animals. The disease doesn’t infect animal species outside of the deer family, but it can decimate the members of any population of deer. Elk and moose can also be infected. CWD can be transmitted from one animal to another, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the mechanism for transmission isn’t currently fully understood. Because of its deadly nature, the disease is a major concern anywhere that it is detected.
Thankfully, Michigan DNR has had an action plan in place for some time to deal with the advent of CWD. Among the points of the plan are a population survey in the area surrounding the location of the animal or animals that test positive. In this case, it would be Ingham, Clinton and Shiawassee counties. While there will be restrictions placed on the transport of harvested animals and animal parts of deer taken in the affected area, unlimited any-deer permits will be issued.
There will be further testing of animals in the area and outside of it, and a prohibition goes into effect for the salvage of any deer that has died due to being hit by a car or other vehicle. However, animals that have been killed in vehicle accidents will be reported to and tested by the DNR for the CWD disease.
All of this is automatic upon an animal being tested as positive for the disease, so they went into effect as soon as confirmation was delivered. This happened after the white tailed deer tested positive at Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health. The samples were then shipped to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa, where they got additional confirmation.
State agencies are working with private deer facilities, landowners and are enlisting the aid of the public. Hunters and others who observe strange behavior in deer are requested to immediately contact the DNR regarding the observations. CWD doesn’t usually show up quickly, so the deer can end up looking emancipated and can lose their normal inhibitions around people. In other words, they can appear to be tame, though they aren’t.
Since hunters have always been among the greatest bastion of conservationists, they are urged to help and to support the DNR to prevent the rapid spread of CWD. For more information or to contact the DNR, people can call Ed Golder at 517-284-5815. The DNR also has the response plan available online for interested individuals.
With the help of hunters and other conservation-minded people, it is hoped that the spread of CWD can be stopped early.