By Howard Meyerson
LANSING, MI — Michigan wildlife officials plan to deal with Chronic Wasting Disease differently in the future, taking a regional approach, rather than one that affects an entire state peninsula. Revisions to the state CWD action plan recently were approved by Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh.
Michigan’s 10-year-old state CWD strategy needed to be changed, according to state wildlife officials, who learned hard lessons in the three-year aftermath that followed the discovery of the disease in a single Kent County, pen-raised deer in 2008. The recent revisions also were prompted by a positive CWD test in April from a 3 1/2-year-old northwest Wisconsin wild doe.
“We wanted to get this in place because of what is going on in Wisconsin,” said Russ Mason, the DNR’s wildlife chief. “That sick deer at Shell Lake, Wis., was a wild deer. It’s just a matter of time before we see an infected wild deer in Michigan. It’s inevitable.”
CWD has been seen in Wisconsin before, but the April finding was the first time the disease turned up in the northern part of the state, according to published reports. The location is nearly 200 miles from the Michigan border, but state wildlife officials say they expect it to spread. Northern Wisconsin hunters will be asked to bring deer in for testing this fall.
The sick deer was discovered during Wisconsin’s November firearm season, but it was not tested by the state laboratory until March. The finding then was verified by a federal laboratory in April.
Michigan’s revised plan calls for two major changes. A state response will be triggered if CWD shows up within 10 miles of the Michigan border, rather than 50 miles, as written in the 2002 plan. It also localizes where baiting and feeding restrictions go into place if the disease is found.
Michigan wildlife officials would create a CWD management zone extending five miles out from any private facility found with an infected deer. It would extend out 10 miles from any location found to have an infected wild deer. The plan calls for intensive disease monitoring within those zones, as well as baiting and feeding restrictions for deer and wildlife.
The 2002 plan called for a baiting ban across the entire peninsula where an infected deer is found. That proved highly unpopular with hunters and difficult to enforce. The state’s Natural Resources Commission voted last year to eliminate the Lower Peninsula baiting ban put in place immediately following the discovery of CWD in Kent County.
Amy Trotter, the resource policy manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said her organization supports the recent changes.
“We don’t support baiting, but one thing we all knew was that the CWD plan needed to be updated,” Trotter said.
“I think it’s appropriate. We supported the entire peninsula ban but it is harder to justify.”
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