Update: Chronic Wasting Disease in Area Deer Population
Photo credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Chronic wasting disease, a highly contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose was first discovered in free ranging Michigan deer in 2015. Since then, 115 white-tailed deer in the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan have tested positive—five were found in Meridian Township and six more deer tested positive for the disease in Eaton, Ingham and Clinton counties.
There is currently no treatment or vaccine for the disease and it is always fatal.
Chronic wasting disease is highly contagious between deer. It spreads directly between animals through body fluids including saliva, blood, feces and urine, and indirectly through environmental contamination of soil, food or water. There is currently no evidence that chronic wasting disease poses a risk to humans, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not recommend eating the meat from known infected animals.
Hunters located in known chronic wasting disease areas are advised to debone their meat. Deer can have the disease for over a year before developing symptoms which include emaciation, lack of coordination, drooping head and ears, and excessive drooling and drinking. Deer do not need to exhibit symptoms to test positive for the disease.
To better understand the deer population in East Lansing, the city conducts visual deer surveys every fall. The survey is coordinated by an intern overseen by Cathy DeShambo, the City of East Lansing’s Environmental Services Manager, and volunteers, typically from the Michigan State University Fisheries and Wildlife club. The city worked closely with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services and the Michigan State University Fisheries and Wildlife Department to develop a survey protocol.
The surveys began in 2014 and are conducted in areas with evidence of deer activity. The 2018 survey found lower reported numbers of deer compared to last year. Cathy DeShambo is still evaluating results but believes there may have been a disruption, such as trail reconstruction, that moved some of the deer out of the survey area.
In 2015 when chronic wasting disease was initially discovered in Meridian Township, the DNR and USDA Wildlife Services were interested in understanding the prevalence of the disease through a limited cull from adjoining communities including East Lansing. One benefit of a deer cull is disease surveillance, since the disease cannot be detected in live animals.
As ELi previously reported, East Lansing City Council opted not to participate in a cull, and instead adopted Ordinance 1358 on February 23, 2016. The Ordinance allows City Council to approve such actions in the future should it be necessary. The ordinance makes exceptions to the prohibition of hunting in parks within East Lansing for officers acting in the discharge of their duties or persons acting under the direction of the State of Michigan as part of a wildlife control protocol approved by the City Council. It also prohibits arrows from being discharged and requires bows to be encased within the city.
Due to the prevalence of the disease in the region, East Lansing is within the DNR Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone which means it has different hunting regulations than other parts of the state.
What can you do to help?
- Do not feed deer. On July 8, 2014, the East Lansing City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1334, prohibiting the feeding of deer in the East Lansing community. It is also banned statewide by the DNR as of January 31st, 2019.
- If you are a hunter, consider getting your deer checked. A list of deer check stations is available at michigan.gov/deercheck
- Share your concerns and opinions regarding deer management in East Lansing through an online survey on the City of East Lansing’s website.
- Report deer that are unusually thin or exhibiting unusual behavior to the DNR. You can report sick deer online or through a local DNR Wildlife office. Report all deer-vehicle collisions to local police or DNR check stations so the deer carcass can be tested by the DNR.
- Learn more about chronic wasting disease at mi.gov/cwd.