DNR's CWD Myth Busters

by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently started a new Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) campaign to help dispel the myths orienting around CWD. This blog takes a look at these "Busted Myths" and goes into further detail.


I have heard many times from fellow hunters, that CWD is not a big deal, and they wish DNR would focus more on EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, and virus spread by small bugs). While EHD is a real concern, there is little we can do to reduce its impact. Also, there is not a guarantee that a deer that comes in contact with the EHD virus will die from the disease. Deer are known to be resistant to the disease, and even spread that resistance to their young. This is not the case at all with CWD, a disease that is lethal 100% of the time. The prions (the transmission route of the disease) build in the environment and contaminated deer, and increase in further spread the longer and more frequent the disease is in an area. If left unmanaged, CWD is showing to have drastic impacts on deer populations.



It could be argued that this "myth" is true. CWD does have large possible impacts on our future deer herd. Not so much for us, but for a couple generations of hunters from now. Other issues like EHD are also a concern. More current issues orient around declining deer hunter numbers, and license buyers in general. Hunting licenses fee habitat and wildlife conservation. The decline in funding is a huge concern! Without hunters to keep our deer populations in balance with the habitat, we have a future of overpopulation and very sick deer.






First of all, I live in the CWD Core Zone, and I still see deer. Also, sharpshooters have not been on or near my property because I am more than 2 miles from a site of a known positive deer. Furthermore, I have family and coworkers who live in the core zone near where those initial Meridian Township deer were discovered, I also drive the area frequently, and I still see deer. Plenty of deer! One golf range had 30 deer in it last time I counted, just a couple weeks ago - and let me tell you, the area near this golfing range has been highly targeted to collect samples.

The other factor to consider is this: More road kill deer have been collected in the CWD Core Zone than sharpshooters have collected.



myth4.pngOf CWD cases found, roughly half of them are found in or around captive deer facilities, and half of them are not. The first case in Michigan (2008) was found in a captive facility in Kent County. All the deer found since 2015 to be positive with CWD have been found far away from any deer farms.

Another related scenario to consider is that urine lures are collected from deer farms around the country. Live sampling for CWD is substandard at best, and CWD can transfer via urine (as well as other bodily secretions). If you want to use urine lures to attract deer, consider using a synthetic version.

Additionally, CWD was found at a captive facility in Wisconsin last year less than 30 miles from the U.P. border.





In addition to what is composed to the left, consider Arkansas as a comparison. They found their first positive CWD deer this winter (2016). As of August 22, 2016, they have found 104 positive cases both in deer and elk. Arkansas has had CWD for a while. Michigan has only found 7 deer in over a year of intense sampling. 

Arkansas has had CWD in their wild populations for a while. Based on findings thus far, Michigan has not had it more than a few years.






We have seen some great examples of finding the disease, and after serious surveillance have not found additional cases in several years. Will that be the case in Michigan? Well only time can tell, but so far, we are not looking at a scenario even remotely similar to that of Arkansas, or many other states with unfortunate large numbers of positive CWD cases. 

Our best shot at minimizing this impact and spread is to keep surveying, hitting areas of known positive CWD cases hard, and submitting data to DNR.





As mentioned above, I can provide witness that there are still a good number of deer running around Meridian Township. Are there less deer? Oh, absolutely. But do you really want high deer densities where there is a known disease that is transmissible deer to deer?
























In summary - if we don't do anything, we are guaranteed not to have healthy deer to harvest down the road. Don't we want to protect our hunting heritage for future generations?


In addition, below are some CWD conclusions drawn from research that was provided as an update from the July 2016 "SCWDS Briefs." If you would like to read this report, please email me at amitterling@mucc.org and I will happily send a copy to you.

  • A trial for a CWD vaccine in Elk failed.
  • No genotypes of mules deer, whitetails, or elk have been found to be completely resistant to CWD, but their incubation periods of carrying CWD are longer prior to showing symptoms.
  • Saliva contains tenfold the potentially infections prions than urine.
  • Plants can bind, retain, uptake and transport prions.
  • Prions were found transmissible to humanized mice - 2 of the 140 infected mice expressed a positive response to CWD presence.

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