CWD is a deer killer disease in which the brain is full of holes. What is this always deadly condition and how do people fight the spread?

Michigan is increasing its use in its fight against the chronically wasted disease of deer, a neurological disorder that makes deer look like "zombies".

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Cooperates with Michigan State The University has paid $ 4.7 million in grants to help fight the disease.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is associated with mad cow disease. Infested deer often look emaciated and confused, wander aimlessly and do not fear humans.

Dr. Russ Mason, head of the DNR Wildlife Division, told The Free Press that $ 4.7 million would be allocated to support four categories:

  • $ 2.5 million for basic research, such as more efficient and more economical sample testing strategies
  • $ 1.5 million for practical and applied research, such as understanding the movement of populations to develop management strategies.
  • About $ 500,000 in support of multi-country cooperation. Each group can apply for and qualify for a grant as long as there is a Michigan-based investigator.
  • Approximately $ 700,000 for public relations and communications to convey the message that the disease is "an existential threat to deer and conservation in general," Mason said.

Proposals will be accepted until 17.00 on 3 June.

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Hart feeds along a Michigan roadside in this April photo photo. (Photo: Eric Sharp, Detroit Free Press)

Do not Eat Meat

Although Mason said there is no proven relationship between the consumption of contaminated venison and human disease, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advise against consuming meat from animals that have a positive test for CWD.

"You should dispose of the stag, which does not consume meat and does not feed it to pets," Mason said.

He added that some experts believe that CWD has the potential to penetrate the species barrier and infect humans.

It's a big problem in Michigan, where around 600,000 stag hunters live.

Mason said the goal is to keep the disease in check, with less than 1% of the stag population infected. When the infection rate exceeds 1%, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them.

"They could literally eradicate all the deer in the area, repopulate themselves with deer, and those deer would get sick," he said.

Impact on Michigan

According to DNR data, a total of 30,751 whitetail deer were tested for CWD in the past year and 62 were positive, with Montcalm County having the highest numbers.

"At the moment, the main focus of the infection seems to be in the (western) central sub-peninsula, so Montcalm County in Kent County, a little bit in Mecosta," he said.

"In addition, we had a single animal in the UP that was apparently crossed by Wisconsin, and Wisconsin probably has an unsolvable problem with this disease at that point, with some countries having prevalence near 50% or more, which the population will most likely crash. "

According to the CDC, there were 270 counties in 24 states reporting cases of CWD in March 2019.

In Michigan, however, Mason said that the infection numbers in places such as Montcalm County and the northeast of Kent district are 1% "close to each other, with a community above 1%.

Better Testing

Mason said he hopes the grant initiative will lead to better and more accurate tests for the disease.

Currently, the testing process can take 7-14 days, depending on the season, and can run for about $ 125 per deer.

"Over the last three years, we spent about $ 15 million on testing, so if we try to meet all the requirements, it will be very expensive for us," Mason said. "We have to be better than that."

He added that next year the DNR will expect the state's test numbers to rise to 45,000.

In addition, Mason hopes to gain a better understanding of how the disease affects different landscapes and parts of the state. Mason said that they would learn more about how the disease is moving, have a better idea of ​​where to fight it.


Chronic wasting diseases are fatal to deer and other animals. Disease management areas have been set up to stem the disease and prevent its spread.
Sean Heisey, York Daily Record

Contact Aleanna Siacon: Follow her on Twitter: @AleannaSiacon

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