The state of Michigan has implemented an immediate ban on baiting and feeding of deer in 16 counties, called the CWD Management Zone, to try to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease or CWD.
The state will also extend the deer hunting season in those counties, and place restrictions on deer carcass movements in the zone.
Statewide, there is an immediate ban on the use of natural urine-based lures and attractants, because the products can contain the infectious agents known as prions that cause CWD.
And starting January 31, 2019, the state will expand the ban on baiting and feeding deer to the entire Lower Peninsula.
CWD attacks the brain and nervous system of deer. It is always fatal.
Deer infected with CWD have been found in Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa, and Shiawassee counties.
Chad Stewart is the deer management specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says it could take decades to eradicate CWD, and right now, the aim is simply to contain it.
“Once an area has been identified that has CWD, it’s really difficult to get rid of it,” says Stewart.
That’s because prions are highly contagious, and they can survive in the environment for extremely longer periods. Researchers say it’s possible that deer can even be infected with CWD from plants that have absorbed the prions.
Stewart says other prion types of disease like mad cow have jumped species and infected humans. That doesn’t appear to have happened with CWD, yet, but he says hunters who eat meat from deer they kill should have the deer tested first.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization do recommend that if you shoot an animal that has chronic wasting disease, you do not eat it.”
Some of the restrictions will not apply to some disabled hunters, for example, the prohibition on baiting.