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5 Recommendations To Fight Chronic Wasting Disease

At last week’s regular monthly meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission in Lansing, the Chronic Wasting Disease Working Group – a panel challenged by the commission to explore actions that could substantially mitigate or eliminate CWD in Michigan – presented its recommendations to strengthen the fight against this neurological disease that threatens Michigan’s deer population. Those five recommendations include:

  • 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.

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.

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.

To date, a total of 57 deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, Mecosta and Montcalm counties.

“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.

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.

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.

Presentations and agenda from the CWD Symposium are available online.

The nine-member CWD Working Group took information from the symposium to make recommendations to the NRC about deer management in Michigan. This multi-disciplinary working group met three times and developed the five recommendations.

“We are extremely appreciative of the time and energy given by each of the CWD Working Group members in their effort to help Michigan combat chronic wasting disease,” said NRC Chair Vicki Pontz. “Over the next five months, the commission will carefully consider each of these recommendations. We will begin with the messaging and communications recommendation at our February commission meeting in Lansing.”

The full CWD Working Group report is available on the www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases website under the chronic wasting disease section.

The members of the CWD Working Group include:

  • James Averill (co-chair), Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  • Kelly Straka (co-chair), Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
  • Alan Ettenhofer, U.P. Whitetails and U.P. Sportsmen’s Alliance.
  • William Porter, Boone and Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Research Center, Michigan State University.
  • Paul Rose, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (past president).
  • Bill Rustem, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
  • George Smith, Michigan State University AgBioResearch.
  • Kent Syers, United Deer Farmers of Michigan.
  • Chad Thelen, Quality Deer Management Association.

More information about each member is included in the report.

Over the next several months, the NRC and the DNR will engage stakeholders and the public to consider these focus areas in developing chronic wasting disease management recommendations. The commission is expected to take action this summer on recommendations that may affect the 2018 hunting season.

For the latest updates on CWD, including public meetings, visit www.michigan.gov/cwd.

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