There is both good news and bad news from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The bad news is that the department is confirming that a third wild deer in the state has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. This one was a female that was about five years old.
This isn’t altogether unexpected since the disease, which is always fatal and can be contracted by any member of the cervid or deer family, can be spread by contact with infected animals as well as from contaminated bedding and feeding grounds because it is spread in saliva and other bodily fluids. In fact, the good news is that all three deer came from the same small area in Ingham County. The three wild deer were from an area that put them less than a mile from one another.
One of the results of the ongoing research regarding CWD shows that the disease is quite often spread between members of family groups within herds because they are most likely to have direct body contact. Knowing this, samples from all three deer were tested genetically by the Molecular Ecology Laboratory of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. It was found that the three deer were closely related to each other and were in fact part of a family group.
Since CWD is deadly and the potential is so high for the disease to spread to other deer, Michigan DNR is asking hunters and other outdoor recreationists and conservationists to keep alert for any deer that might be exhibiting the signs of CWD. If any are observed, they are requesting that hunters and others immediately report the sighting with as much information as is possible. Since there is no known prevention or cure for CWD, the main goal in Michigan is containment. This makes it exceptionally important for hunters throughout the state to report any deer that may be infected.
The signs of CWD in deer include animals that appear to have lost all fear of humans, abnormal and severe weight loss and loss of coordination, making it appear that the deer is intoxicated and staggering. One of the difficulties in the containment of CWD, though, is that the disease can have a lengthy incubation period. A deer can have the disease, yet display no symptoms for weeks or months. Still, CWD is a deadly disease. If a deer becomes infected, it will die. No deer with the disease has ever been known to recover from it.
CWD affects only cervids. There is no indication that it can spread to livestock. Also, predators, including hunters, haven’t been shown to suffer ill effects from even consuming infected deer. However, both the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that people don’t consume infected animals or feed the meat to their pets.
Several deer in different states have been confirmed to have CWD in 2015, as has been reported at Good Game Hunting. In Michigan, the first confirmed CWD positive of this year occurred in April. The second deer was confirmed positive in July. The three include two does, one of them six years old and the most current one was a five year old. The third confirmed positive was a two-year-old buck.
Anyone who sees a deer that shows possible signs of CWD infection can report the sighting at 800-292-7800. Michigan DNR also cautions people to leave any deer that appears to be infected alone.
To date, there have been 163 roadkill deer and 338 other deer tested in Michigan for CWD this year. This is part of the response plan for dealing with CWD in Michigan. However, Michigan DNR says that hunter involvement is crucial for dealing with the threat of CWD. As put by Dr. Steve Schmitt, a wildlife veterinarian with the DNR,
”We need individuals who have always hunted in Ingham County and surrounding counties to keep hunting. The DNR can’t fight this disease without their support. Hunters need to have their deer checked and tested so we can determine if this disease is established over a broad area or just persisting in a local pocket.”
Picture by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources