New regulations fight chronic wasting disease in Barry County
The red circles indicate townships where CWD has been confirmed in free ranging deer. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
Taking proactive measures to keep the insidious chronic wasting disease in deer from entering Barry County, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved a series of new deer hunting regulations at its monthly meeting on July 11.
To date, 120 CWD-positive deer have been identified in Michigan, and, though no CWD-positive deer have yet been identified in Barry County, the insidious disease has turned up in counties bordering Barry County. Hot spots for the disease have centered in and around Montcalm County and include the counties of Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, and Kent.
Because of the proximity of those jurisdictions to Barry County and because Barry County directly borders Kent, Ionia, and Eaton, the MNRC placed Barry County in a CWD Management Zone under the new regulations adopted July 11. Since the disease is easily transmitted by just one infected animal crossing the county line into Barry County, authorities believe the county is at risk.
“By the patterns we're seeing, we need to include Barry County in the CWD management zone,” said Mark Mills, field operations manager with the DNR Wildlife Division. “There's a possibility that we could detect some CWD [in Barry County].”
The action came after a thorough review of the best available science on CWD and multiple opportunities for public input. CWD is a fatal disease that attacks the brain of infected deer and produces small lesions that result in death. Chronic wasting disease can be spread through fluid contact between animals. A deer can be infected by simply smelling an infected deer or eating at a bait pile that a CWD-positive animal ate from. A particularly chilling reality of CWD is that it can spread through feces and urine. CWD can remain active in the soil, infecting deer that root and lick an area with residual CWD. It's an insidious disease that finds a way into the nooks and crannies of feeding grounds and deer lots. And there's no cure; an infected animal will die.
What impact does this have on people in Barry County?
“Follow all of the regulations,” Mills said.
These regulations include baiting, the use of scents, and feeding deer. The regulations adopted July 11 affecting Barry County include:
- A continued ban on baiting and feeding in the entire Lower Peninsula (Liberty and Independence hunts are excluded from this rule, with some limitations).
- A requirement that scents placed to entice deer, whether composed of natural or synthetic materials, be placed so that they are inaccessible for consumption by deer and placed in such a manner to prohibit any physical contact with deer.
- A ban on deer collected with a salvage permit as a result of collision with a motor vehicle from being removed from the county where the animal was killed to prevent potential spread of CWD.
Other regulations include:
- The 2019 Liberty Hunt will take place Sept. 14-15 instead of Sept. 21-22.
- The early antler-less season – held on private land in select counties – will continue to take place the third weekend in September (Sept. 21-22).
Those participating in the Liberty and Independence hunts should review DNR baiting regulations posted on Michigan.gov/CWD.
To date, more than 60,000 deer in Michigan have been tested for CWD. If a case of CWD is confirmed in Barry County, for the hunters, it will mean business as usual.
Mills recommends hunters take their harvests to a check station to help identify cases of CWD. If a deer is suspected or confirmed to have CWD, it should not be eaten and should be turned over to the nearest DNR check station immediately.
Mills said deer can travel up to 15 miles, keeping Barry County out of reach of most CWD-infected herds.
“I don't really expect to see it in Barry County anytime soon,” he said. “But a lot of the unknowns are what's pushing us to be proactive.”
Because CWD is a newcomer to Michigan (it was first identified in wild Michigan deer in 2015), no solid research exists showing how it moves through deer herds. The DNR is currently grappling for clues as to how CWD interacts with the state's diverse regional herds. Until the disease is better understood, authorities are playing it safe with additional regulations to curtail its spread.
“We hope that by setting these specific CWD regulations we can limit the movement of this disease in Michigan,” said Vicki Pontz, NRC chairperson. “We appreciate all the comments we have received from across the state. Michigan hunters are very passionate about deer and deer hunting, and I look forward to working with them as we continue to confront this threat to wildlife and our valued hunting tradition.”
For more information about CWD and the new regulations, visit Michigan.gov/CWD. For additional questions, contact the DNR Wildlife Division by email at DNR-Wildlife@michigan.gov or by phone at 517-284-9453.