LANSING (Great Lakes News) – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released a statement announcing a new confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease in Michigan. A hunter-harvested doe from the Hamilton Township in Gratiot County tested positive for CWD. The DNR sent the tissue samples to the Michigan University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for the final confirmation. 

In 2018, the DNR confirmed another case of CWD in Gratiot County, which includes Ithica and Alma townships. CWD is a fatal brain disease that affects deer, elk, and moose and has the potential to severely damage the ecosystem by rapidly spreading. There is currently no cure for CWD, making it difficult to prevent the disease from moving to new hosts and eradicating an entire population. There are no reported cases of CWD infecting a human, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that hunters not eat any meat of a potentially infected or feed it to their pets just to be safe.

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CWD entered the news earlier this year, when the DNR used the disease as justification for banning bating while hunting in portions of the Upper Peninsula. The ensuing confrontation between Upper Peninsula State Rep. Beau LeFave (R-Iron Mountain) and the DNR culminated in LeFave advocating for a separate regulatory organization for the Upper Peninsula.

As of now, the disease has also been confirmed in Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm counties.

“When we find CWD a few townships over from a prior detection in the same county, it becomes increasingly important to discover if and where additional cases might be within that county,” said DNR deer and elk specialist Chad Stewart. “In light of this new detection, we ask hunters in southeastern Gratiot and southwestern Saginaw counties, especially, to have their deer tested this year.”

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Any hunters in Gratiot county can find deer check stations at DNR field offices in St. Charles, McNabb Park, and Belling Packing. A complete list of their locations  throughout Michigan can be found here.

“The DNR sets surveillance goals – basically, a number of deer tested in a particular area – to understand the scale of infection in the local deer herd,” Stewart said. “The closer we come to meeting these goals, the better we can learn about where chronic wasting disease exists in Michigan. That’s why we encourage hunters to get deer tested, especially in areas where we haven’t yet met surveillance goals.”

CWD is still relatively rare among deer in Michigan, so the DNR hopes every hunter does what they can to prevent it from spreading. Stewart suggests continue to hunt throughout the season, disposing of leftover parts in the trash, and taking additional does in CWD risk areas if possible. Some suggest more radical action, including the mass killing of portions of the deer population. The DNR is already, actively killing, large amounts of deer using sharpshooters in high risk areas. Norway famously killed an entire heard of about 2,000 reindeer to prevent the disease from spreading.

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To stay informed about the current status of CWD in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/CWD regularly.