Author Archives: CWD Alliance

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 michigan.gov/cwd.

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 michigan.gov/cwd

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 www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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.

Tests confirm 2 CWD-positive deer near Lanesboro

DNR initiates disease response plan; offers hunters information on field dressing

Test results show two deer harvested by hunters in southeastern Minnesota were infected with Chronic Wasting Disease, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

One deer has been confirmed as CWD-positive. Confirmation of the second is expected later this week. The deer, both male, were killed near Lanesboro in Fillmore County during the first firearms deer season.

The two deer were harvested approximately 1 mile apart. These are the only deer to test positive from 2,493 samples collected Nov. 5-13. Results are still pending from 373 additional test samples collected during the opening three days of the second firearms season, Nov. 19-21.

CWD is a fatal brain disease to deer, elk and moose but is not known to affect human health. While it is found in deer in states bordering southeastern Minnesota, it was only found in a single other wild deer in Minnesota in 2010.

The DNR discovered the disease when sampling hunter-killed deer this fall in southeastern Minnesota as part of its CWD surveillance program. Dr. Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said hunter and landowner cooperation on disease surveillance is the key to keeping the state’s deer herd healthy.

“We were proactively looking for the disease, a proven strategy that allows us to manage CWD by finding it early, reacting quickly and aggressively to control it and hopefully eliminating its spread,” he said.

It is unknown how the two CWD-positive deer, which were harvested 4 miles west of Lanesboro in deer permit area 348, contracted the disease, Cornicelli said.

“We want to thank hunters who have brought their deer to our check stations for sampling,” he said. “While finding CWD-positive deer is disappointing, we plan to work with hunters, landowners and other organizations to protect the state’s deer herd and provide hunters the opportunity to pass on their deer hunting traditions.”

These are the first wild deer found to have CWD since a deer harvested in fall 2010 near Pine Island tested positive. It was found during a successful disease control effort prompted by the detection in 2009 of CWD on a domestic elk farm. The DNR, landowners and hunters worked together to sample more than 4,000 deer in the Pine Island area from 2011 to 2013, and no additional infected deer were found.

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization have found no scientific evidence that the disease presents a health risk to humans who come in contact with infected animals or eat infected meat. Still, the CDC advises against eating meat from animals known to have CWD.

With the muzzleloader deer season stretching into mid-December and archery season open through Saturday, Dec. 31, hunters should take these recommended precautions when harvesting deer:

  • Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer.
  • Bone out the meat from your animal. Don’t saw through bone, and avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
  • Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
  • If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal.

The DNR already has begun implementing the state’s CWD response plan. Three additional CWD testing stations were opened in Fillmore County last weekend and electronic registration was turned off in two additional deer permit areas.

“We’ll wait until the late 3B firearms season concludes this weekend and analyze test results from all the samples we collect from hunters,” Cornicelli said. “That will provide a better indication of the potential prevalence and distribution of CWD so we can determine boundaries for a disease management zone and the actions we’ll take to manage the disease and limit its spread.”

The DNR began CWD testing in southeastern Minnesota again this fall in response to expanded CWD infections in Wisconsin, Illinois, and northeast Iowa, as well as new and growing infections in Arkansas and Missouri. The increasing prevalence and geographic spread of the disease also prompted an expanded carcass import restriction that does not allow whole carcasses of deer, elk, moose and caribou to be brought into Minnesota.

The discovery of CWD in wild deer reinforces the need for the vigilance that disease surveillance and carcass import restrictions provide. Although inconvenient, hunter cooperation with these measures help protect Minnesota’s deer herd.

“Working with landowners and hunters to better protect deer from disease is vital to Minnesota’s hunting tradition and economy and most important, the deer population in general,” Cornicelli said. “In states where CWD has become well-established in wild deer, efforts at elimination have been unsuccessful. Research has shown that if established, the disease will reduce deer populations in the long term. Nobody wants this to happen in Minnesota.”

Because much of southeastern Minnesota’s land is privately owned, the DNR will work with landowners when collecting additional samples to assess disease distribution and reduce the potential for CWD to spread. Sample collection could take the form of a late winter deer hunt, landowner shooting permits and sharpshooting in conjunction with cooperating landowners who provide permission.

“Those decisions will be made after surveillance is done this hunting season,” Cornicelli said.

The DNR has been on the lookout for CWD since 2002, when the disease first was detected at a domestic elk farm in central Minnesota. In recent years it has put additional focus on southeastern Minnesota; the region abuts Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa. Wisconsin has 43 counties affected by CWD and the disease has been detected in northeastern Iowa’s Allamakee County.

Since 2002, the DNR has tested approximately 50,000 deer, elk, and moose for CWD.

CWD is transmitted primarily from animal-to-animal by infectious agents in feces, urine or saliva. The disease also can persist for a long time in the environment and may be contracted from contaminated soil. The movement of live animals is one of the greatest risk factors in spreading the disease to new areas.

For more information, including maps of CWD surveillance areas, frequently asked questions, hunter information and venison processing, visit the DNR’s CWD homepage. Landowners, hunters and citizens can stay engaged and informed by visiting the CWD page and signing up to receive an email automatically when new information on CWD management becomes available.

Oconto County Deer Tests Positive for CWD

A white-tailed deer on an Oconto County hunting preserve has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, reported the final test results last week.

State Veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw says the animal was an 18 month old female and was one of more than an estimated 1,450 deer in the 1,360-acre preserve. The deer was born on the premises and killed on the preserve.

More than 1,000 deer from this preserve have been tested for CWD since 2010.

The DATCP animal health division’s investigation will look at animal movement records, but since the deer was born on the preserve, there will not be any trace back investigations of any other herds.