With Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) increasing in Michigan’s deer herd, the Chronic Wasting Disease Working Group has recommended five steps to “strengthen the fight against this neurological disease that threatens Michigan’s deer population.”
The Natural Resources Commission is expected to review the recommendations and engage with various stakeholders during the next few months before taking actions that may affect the 2018 hunting season.
“CWD is a threat to our free ranging deer, elk and moose population as well as the numerous cervidae farms in the state,” said Andrew Vermeesch, state lobbyist with Michigan Farm Bureau. “While there has been no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to cattle, sheep, or other conventional livestock at this time, overall disease management, regardless of species or disease, needs to be taken into consideration when managing Michigan’s natural resources.”
The five recommendations from the nine-member working group are:
- Pursuing the help of an outside marketing agency to develop messaging for Michigan’s vision for CWD surveillance and management.
- Forming a consortium of states and provinces to seek federal, state and private funding to share research on CWD surveillance methods, diagnostic tools, transmission pathways and management practices.
- Working cooperatively with the Agriculture and Rural Development Commission to assess the effectiveness and direction of privately owned cervid facilities, with an emphasis on biosecurity and CWD risk factors.
- Continuing to employ a science-based strategy for CWD management.
- Developing statewide, science-based management plans based on regional prevalence of CWD.
- Within the report is a recommendation to reinstate the 2002 CWD response plan statewide ban on feeding and baiting of deer with consideration of a statewide ban on the sale of agricultural commodities for deer bait.
“The recommendations from the workgroup are a good starting point for disease management discussions that are expected to follow in the upcoming months,” he said. “Issues such as overpopulation and artificial baiting, which have been known causes for increasing the risk of disease transmission, needs to be addressed in order to protect our natural resources and agricultural industries in the state.”
Michigan Farm Bureau’s member-developed policy “opposes artificial baiting and feeding of free-ranging deer.”
Chronic wasting disease attacks the brain of infected animals, creating small lesions, which result in death. The disease is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact, or by contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood or carcass parts of an infected animal, or infected soil, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“The disease can spread through the deer herd and, once established, could – over the long term – significantly reduce the number of deer in the region and/or significantly depress numbers of older age class deer,” the DNR said in a press release.
To date, a total of 57 deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, Mecosta and Montcalm counties, the DNR reported.
"While CWD presents a challenge, it also presents opportunity to bring together deer hunting and conservation communities in order to ensure a healthy, sustainable deer resource and the future of deer hunting in Michigan," said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR Wildlife Division.
According to the DNR, other states have enacted policies that include changes in hunting regulations, restrictions or bans on deer carcasses from other states, baiting and feeding bans to prevent deer-to-deer contact that spreads the disease, bans on urine-based lures that are thought to spread the disease, and bans on live cervid movement from out of state.
Last fall the Natural Resources Commission and the Department of Natural Resources brought together CWD experts from around the country to review the latest in science and management principles on the disease.
For the latest updates on CWD, including public meetings, visit www.michigan.gov/cwd.