The Michigan departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) confirmed Monday that a free-ranging deer in Meridian Township (Ingham County) has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose.

This is the first time the disease has been found in Michigan’s free-ranging deer population.

The animal was observed last month wandering around a Meridian Township residence and showing signs of illness. The deer was collected by a DNR wildlife biologist and delivered for initial testing to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health in Lansing, Michigan. After initial tests were positive, samples were forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for final confirmation. The Michigan DNR received that positive confirmation last week.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to humans or other animals. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food.

The confirmed positive finding triggers several actions in the state’s surveillance and response plan for chronic wasting disease. Actions the DNR will take include:

  1. Completing a population survey in the area where the CWD-positive deer was found.
  1. Establishing a Core CWD Area consisting of Alaiedon, Delhi, Lansing, Meridian, Wheatfield and Williamstown townships in Ingham County; Bath and DeWitt townships in Clinton County; and Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County. Unlimited antlerless deer hunting licenses will be available. Mandatory checking of deer will be required in this area during hunting seasons and restrictions will apply to the movement of carcasses and parts of deer taken in this area.
  1. Creating a CWD Management Zone, which will include Clinton, Ingham and Shiawassee counties.
  1. Implementing a deer and elk feeding and baiting ban, which will include the Core CWD Area and the larger three-county CWD Management Zone.
  1. Prohibiting the possession or salvage of deer killed by collision with a motor vehicle within the Core CWD Area. Also, residents are asked to call in the locations of road-killed deer within this area so DNR staff can pick up for testing. Research shows CWD-infected deer are more likely to be hit by vehicles because of their illness.

The disease is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids or from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal. Once contaminated, research shows that soil can remain a source of infection for long periods of time, making CWD a particularly difficult disease to eradicate.

Some chronically CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

The DNR asks help from the public and hunters in reporting deer that are:

  • Unusually thin.
  • Exhibiting unusual behavior (for example, acting tame around humans and allowing someone to approach).

To report a suspicious-looking deer, call the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab at 517-336-5030 or fill out and submit the online observation report found on the DNR website.

To report road-kills found in the Core CWD Area call the Wildlife Disease Hotline at 517-614-9602 during office hours. Leave a voicemail with location information and staff will attempt to pick up carcasses on the next open business day.

Get more information on CWD – including Michigan’s CWD surveillance and response plan, FAQs and a link to the CWD Alliance website where more photos and video are available – at www.michigan.gov/cwd.