With the firearm deer season complete, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has now identified a total of 30 free-ranging white-tailed deer that are confirmed or suspected to have chronic wasting disease. Several thousand additional samples are awaiting testing by Michigan State University, so numbers for this deer season could still change.
Since May 2015 when the first CWD deer was found, the DNR has tested approximately 23,000 deer. Of those tested, 30 cases of CWD have been suspected or confirmed in deer from Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. “CWD suspect” means that the deer tested positive on an initial screening test, but has not yet been confirmed through additional testing. It is very rare that a CWD suspect will not be confirmed as a CWD-positive animal, but it is possible.
From 2015 to 2016, a total of four deer (in DeWitt, Eagle and Watertown townships) in Clinton County tested positive. So far in 2017, a single CWD suspect has been identified in Westphalia Township, also in Clinton County. In Ingham County, five deer from Meridian Township tested positive from 2015 to 2016; since then, no deer from Ingham County have tested positive for CWD.
In Montcalm County, a total of 17 deer from the following townships are suspected or confirmed to be positive for CWD: Cato, Douglass, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine, Reynolds, Sidney and Winfield. In Kent County, three CWD-positive deer were found in Nelson and Spencer townships. This is the first year any CWD-suspect free-ranging deer were found in Montcalm or Kent counties.
“The fact that we have likely found so many additional CWD-positive deer is a major concern for Michigan’s deer population,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer specialist. “However, Michigan has a comprehensive CWD response and surveillance plan to guide our actions, and we will continue working with hunters and taking proactive measures to contain this disease.”
To date, the DNR has:
Established a CWD Core and Management Zone where CWD has been detected.
Implemented deer feeding and baiting bans throughout entire CWD Core and Management Zones.
Intensified surveillance of free-ranging deer in CWD Management Zones, including mandatory check and testing of all hunter-harvested deer within Core CWD Areas.
Opened and staffed additional deer check stations to better accommodate hunters within Core CWD Areas.
The DNR encourages hunters throughout the state to continue to hunt responsibly and submit their deer for CWD surveillance and testing.
“Hunters are our best ally in understanding the magnitude of chronic wasting disease in Michigan,” said Stewart. “It’s vital for hunters throughout the state to continue to bring in their deer for testing, and to talk to one another about the seriousness of the situation and the actions they can take right now to help limit the spread of CWD.”
High rates of CWD in a deer population could significantly affect the number of deer, and also could significantly depress the potential for older age classes, especially the more mature bucks.
Michigan welcomes approximately 600,000 deer hunters each year who, over the past decade, harvest an average of 340,000 deer. Overall, hunting generates more than $2.3 billion a year for Michigan’s economy, with approximately $1.9 billion of that stemming from deer hunting.
“There’s no question that a healthy deer herd across the state is critical to Michigan’s economy and to a thriving hunting tradition that spans generations of friends and family,” Stewart said.
The DNR strongly recommends that hunters who harvest deer in Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties have their deer tested by bringing them to a deer check station.
Hunters who have submitted their deer heads for CWD testing should process their deer as needed, but wait for test results before consumption.
To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. 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.
Chronic wasting disease 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 from the carcass of a diseased animal.
Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, 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 a deer once it is infected with CWD.
To learn more about CWD, and the current known distribution of CWD in Michigan, visit michigan.gov/cwd. Results are updated weekly.