November 18, 2019 Since chronic wasting disease’s (CWD) first discovery in Michigan’s Ingham County in 2015, research efforts to better understand how to stop the spread of the fatal neurological disease in deer, moose and elk, have taken on a life of its own. Last year alone, the state tested more than 40,000 deer heads for CWD — about 25% of all samples tested in the entire United States. In total, 133 deer in nine Michigan counties have now tested positive for the disease, according to the DNR. Unfortunately, Michigan has joined a growing list of what is currently 26 states and three Canadian provinces to have confirmed cases of CWD in wild cervid (deer, elk and moose) populations. Concern over CWD’s potential devastation to the state’s white-tailed deer herd prompted the state Legislature to approve $4.3 million this year to support a coalition of the DNR, Michigan State University (MSU), the state of Wisconsin and federal natural resource managers, wildlife biologists, and veterinarians to stop the spread of CWD. Dr. Russ Mason, the DNR’s executive in residence and adjunct professor at MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is helping lead this coalition. Before his MSU appointment, Mason oversaw the DNR’s CWD efforts as the department’s longtime Wildlife Division chief. “By working together in our fight against CWD, we are capitalizing on the talents provided by universities and combining resources across the state and federal government,” Mason said. “This will help us move more quickly to identify solutions that will help us manage this unique disease.” The MSU-DNR Chronic Wasting Disease Advisory Group was created in 2018 to identify and fund high-priority CWD research and outreach activities. Funding new research, education efforts In April, the advisory group issued a national call for proposals to seek collaborative research, education and outreach projects to address the most important issues around wildlife disease in Michigan, especially CWD in deer. This past summer, 11 projects were selected for funding. Some projects are now underway and expected to last one to two years, according to Mason. Project topics include: Developing a rapid, in-the-field CWD screening test. Testing two promising decontamination agents to inactivate CWD prions (abnormally folded proteins that cause disease) on different materials with which prions may come into contact. Examining how composting of infected deer carcasses could help with the decomposition of prions. Developing a study to examine how deer hunting regulations influence deer populations affected by the disease. Studying CWD prions in the environment. Developing efficient CWD surveillance and management strategies for Michigan and establishing a framework for other states. Additionally, according to Mason, a multistate strategic planning initiative brought together nearly 50 invited participants representing 14 universities, seven state and federal agencies, the Wildlife Management Institute and CWD Alliance. “These experts were brought together with the specific objective of creating cross-disciplinary conversations and information sharing,” Mason said, adding that he expects the multistate CWD consortium will continue to coordinate research efforts and exchange of information.