Yearly Archives: 2017

Federal lab confirms Montcalm County deer had chronic wasting disease

With archery deer hunting season under way, DNR urges all hunters to take harvested deer to area check stations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed Wednesday that a 3 1/2-year-old female deer taken during Michigan’s youth deer hunting season in September has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The animal, harvested in Montcalm Township in Montcalm County, is the 10th free-ranging deer in Michigan found to have chronic wasting disease. The youth hunter who harvested the deer opted to take the animal to a Department of Natural Resources deer check station and then submitted the animal for testing – steps the DNR strongly encourages hunters across the state to take during the 2017 deer hunting seasons.

“Because this family decided to bring their deer to a DNR deer check station, state wildlife managers were able to gain important information about chronic wasting disease in mid-Michigan,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR state wildlife veterinarian. “As we move through the archery and firearm seasons, voluntary deer testing will be critical not only within the currently affected areas, but also throughout the south-central Lower Peninsula and the entire state.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal. 

Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die. 

Since May 2015, the DNR has actively conducted surveillance for CWD. To date, more than 14,000 deer have been tested since the first positive case was found, with 10 cases of CWD confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer identified in Clinton, Ingham and (now) Montcalm counties.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any known risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals. 

As additional deer have tested positive for CWD within Michigan, the DNR has put specific regulations in place. Currently, there are two CWD Core Areas, which are deer management units (DMUs) 333 and 359. To review regulations related to those areas, visit

With Wednesday’s confirmation of chronic wasting disease in the Montcalm County deer, DNR Director Keith Creagh has signed an interim order (effective Oct. 4, 2017, through March 29, 2018) outlining next steps as governed by Michigan’s CWD Response and Surveillance Plan. The order:

  • Creates a nine-township Core Area that includes Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Within the Core Area specifically:
    • Institutes mandatory registration of deer at a check station within 5 miles of the new Core CWD Area, within 72 hours of harvest, starting Nov. 15. (Available stations currently are at Flat River State Game Area and Howard City.)
    • Removes antler point restrictions for the restricted tag of the combo deer license within the nine-township Core Area.
    • Allows antlerless deer to be tagged using the deer or deer combo license(s) during the firearm, muzzleloader and late antlerless seasons.
    • Institutes mandatory submission of the head for testing of a road-killed deer within 72 hours of pick-up.
    • Allows disease control permits, effective immediately, for landowners with five or more acres within the nine-township Core Area.
  • Bans the feeding and baiting of deer in Kent and Montcalm counties, effective Jan. 2, 2018, and encourages hunters not to bait and feed in these areas immediately.

The DNR will work with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to make the order permanent, adjusting as needed in response to the evolving situation.

“In Michigan, there are 338 deer farms, regulated jointly by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the DNR. MDARD is working with the farms that are within a 15-mile surveillance zone to ensure compliance with CWD testing requirements, implement increased inspections and monitor animal movement,” said MDARD State Veterinarian James Averill. “All regulated deer farms participate in the state’s CWD testing program; however, farms outside the surveillance zone will not have additional requirements.”

Starting Nov. 1, several new deer check stations near the new Core Area will accept deer for CWD testing. Archery hunters are strongly encouraged to have their deer checked at existing check stations during the early archery season.

A complete list of check stations, including locations and hours, as well as weekly CWD updates, are available at

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

New publication

Disease-associated prion protein detected in lymphoid tissues from pigs challenged with the agent of chronic wasting disease. View abstract

State auditor set to review agency that oversees deer and elk farms

Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor has tentative plans to review the state’s management of deer and elk farms in response to urgings from legislators, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and at least two deer-hunting groups.

Judy Randall, deputy legislative auditor, said Tuesday that concerns about the possible spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) from privately owned captive deer and elk to the state’s wild herd of 1 million whitetails sparked interest in an evaluation. The topic was sixth on this year’s list of audit priorities set by the bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission. The top five priorities will receive immediate attention, but resources should be available later this year to look at the Board of Animal Health (BAH), Randall said.

“We’ll be picking it up in the fall to see if there’s something we can do that’s useful,’’ she said.

Besides regulating deer and elk farms, BAH oversees more traditional livestock operations as well as governing poultry producers and commercial dog and cat breeders. The agency reported about $6.5 million in expenditures for fiscal year 2016, ranking it low on selection criteria in terms of money. But the auditor’s office said in a briefing paper that the agency’s oversight of farmed deer and elk is a timely topic and could have a significant impact.

“Failure to respond appropriately to a disease outbreak could result in significant damage to the state’s livestock industry or wildlife resource, which could have ripple effects on the state’s economy,’’ the briefing paper said.

The review would come on the heels of Minnesota’s largest-ever outbreak of CWD in wild deer. Months of DNR disease surveillance starting last fall in southeastern Minnesota led to 11 confirmed cases of CWD, including 10 cases clustered near Preston. The cause is under investigation.