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Deer tests positive for chronic wasting disease in the UP

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says a fatal neurological disease in deer has turned up for the first time in the Upper Peninsula.

The 4-year old doe was discovered about four miles from the Wisconsin border in Dickinson County.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a fatal neurological disease found in deer, moose and elk. The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal, creating small lesions, which result in neurologic symptoms. The disease is always fatal in animals that contract it.

To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans.

“We are taking immediate action to address this situation in the Upper Peninsula. In the short term, stepped-up testing and active surveillance is the priority to better understand where the disease exists,” said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Division.

State wildlife officials have been monitoring that part of the western U.P. closely for signs CWD given problems Wisconsin has been having with the disease. 

There are concerns the disease may spread in the U.P., in part because of deer winter migratory patterns which often cause deer to gather in large numbers.

“These…natural concentrations of deer potentially could increase the spread of the disease,” says Chad Stewart, a DNR deer management specialist.  

There is no vaccine for CWD. State wildlife officials hope to contain the outbreak.

A roughly 10-mile core area has been set up, centered on Waucedah Township. Within this area, the DNR has set a goal to test a minimum of 600 deer to better determine the extent of possibly infected deer.

State wildlife officials have done this before.

There have been 63 cases of CWD in the Lower Peninsula in recent years. Infected deer have been found in Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm Counties.

25 states and three Canadian provinces have confirmed the presence of chronic wasting disease in free-ranging or captive deer, elk or moose, or both.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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