by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator
We have been hearing for years that this day would come, that the dreaded statement “CWD is in the Michigan wild deer herd” would be uttered. While this is horrible news, and the effects of this discovery will be felt in the surrounding townships and counties for years to come, let’s sit back and breathe for a minute.
This diagnosis is not the end to deer hunting in Michigan. It will change deer hunting, but not eliminate our ability to enjoy being in the woods, managing our landscapes, and putting venison in our freezers. In order for the disease to be considered established, 1% of the sampled population must have the disease. Even in areas where CWD has been established for decades, prevalence still tends to be less than 13%.
This being said, WE DO NOT WANT CWD IN OUR WOODS, and we need to do all we can as hunters and land managers to reduce the spread and growth of this disease. CWD is a horrific disease that slowly disintegrates a deer and spreads easily to others. It isn’t a virus or a bacteria, it is a prion that stays in the environment and cannot be killed by heat or bleach. It can take months or years to show its nasty effects, which means that we are in this for the long hull.
So what do we do? If you are like me, and you live in the core nine-township CWD zone (Alaiedon, Delhi, Lansing, Meridian, Wheatfield and Williamstown townships in Ingham County; Bath and DeWitt townships in Clinton County; and Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County), this news has you on edge, and you want to do what you can RIGHT NOW to do your part. Right now, the best thing we can do is help the DNR get samples to take to the lab. To report road-kill deer found in the core 9 township area, call the Wildlife Disease Hotline at 517-614-9602 during business hours. Leave a voicemail with the location information, and DNR staff will pick it up by the next business day. Also, report suspicious looking deer by calling 517-336-5030 or reporting it online here.
The information gathered from these deer will help the DNR establish a better understanding of how affected the local deer population is. With this data, they can make better-informed decisions about the next steps they need to take to give us our best chance at getting rid of the nasty CWD.
The other thing we can do RIGHT NOW is spread the word. This disease is serious and poses a significant threat to the Michigan deer herd. Wildlife cooperatives especially have the ability to play an important role in making sure hunters are informed of what is going on, and what they can do to protect our deer. For questions about CWD and how you and your cooperative can provide quality and reliable information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-346-6454.