The Michigan departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture and Rural Development have updated the state’s plan for managing chronic wasting disease (CWD), a potentially fatal illness among deer.
Earlier this month, the state Natural Resources Commission (NRC) adopted changes to the state’s CWD management plan and feeding regulations, which are outlined in the state’s revised CWD response plan.
“This plan is critical in guiding our state’s response to CWD, as it did when the disease was found here a few years ago,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “Much of the 2002 plan is still valid and sound, but we now know a lot more about what causes CWD, how it is spread, what the public thinks about how the disease should be addressed, and the results of CWD management efforts in other states. In light of this, we decided that some modifications to the plan were in order.”
CWD is a contagious neurological disease that affects deer and elk by causing degeneration of infected animals’ brains. This results are emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.
Transmission of the disease occurs from infected animals to uninfected ones, normally by contact between adult animals or by the contamination of feed or water sources with infected saliva, urine, or feces, or contact with an infected area.
Of all deer diseases, CWD is particularly concerning because scientific studies suggest that, once established, CWD can build to a high prevalence in infected deer populations, resulting in increased fatalities and causing population declines over decades.
“CWD is a reportable disease, so if the disease is detected in free-ranging cervids or a Michigan privately-owned cervid facility, we will define a surveillance zone around the positive case,” said Steven Halstead, a veterinarian with the agriculture department. “This plan should protect Michigan’s cervid industry, as well as Michigan’s free-ranging deer population while meeting our ultimate goal of safeguarding animal health.”
The main changes to the plan are:
• The plan will be implemented if a CWD-positive animal is found in another state but within 10 miles of the Michigan border, rather than 50 miles under the original plan;
• Baiting and feeding will be banned in any county within a 10-mile radius of where CWD is detected;
• All privately-owned cervid facilities within that zone will be required to complete increased disease testing of their herds to monitor for signs of CWD; and
• If the disease is diagnosed in a privately-owned cervid facility, all facilities that have had contact (through purchases, sales or immediate contact) will undergo increased disease surveillance testing, and exposed animals will be removed from contact herds.
For more information on the updated plan or CWD, visit www.michigan.gov/cwd.