To Plan or Not To Plan… EHD in deer

Recent weeks have brought us disturbing pictures of dead deer, killed by a devastating disease.  Most of the pics have been of trophy bucks lying in water.  If you think the HSUS pics of puppies and kittens looking forlornly into the camera are heartbreaking well the pics of these wasted deer is 10 times worse for hunters.

The disease is EHD and is normally found in Southwest Michigan.  The first occurrence and subsequent identification of EHD in deer occurred in 1955 when several hundred white-tailed deer succumbed in both New Jersey and in Michigan.  It was considered a new disease of deer and the name `epizootic hemorrhagic disease’ was suggested to describe its main clinical and pathological features.  Additional die-offs attributed to EHD occurred in Michigan in white-tailed deer in 1974, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. The 1974 die-off occurred in several counties and resulted in approximately 100 deer dying.  The 2006 die-off occurred in the south western portion of the state in Allegan County and involved 50-75 animals.  In 2008, the die-off occurred in the south eastern portion of the state in Oakland and Macomb counties and involved 150-200 deer.  In 2009, the die-off took place in the southwestern/southcentral portion of the state in Livingston County and involved 300-450 deer.  In 2010, the die-off occurred in the southwestern portion of the state in Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Ottawa, St Joseph and Van Buren Counties with an estimated mortality of 1,025 deer.  In 2011, the die-off occurred in the southwestern portion of the state again in Cass and St. Joseph Counties with an estimated mortality of 300 deer.

With all these deer dying there must be a plan to stop it or prevent it?   No there is no plan even though many states have local deer populations that experience the disease.  No baiting bans, no increase of the harvest in the area, just wait and hope the first frost comes early. The frost kills the little midges that spread the disease to the deer, problem solved.

EHD in deer

Too bad we can’t do the same thing for CWD, another debilitating cervid disease. No one is sure how the disease is transmitted but they think it’s due to a prion. Prions are considered to be infectious proteins without associated nucleic acids. Okay so how do you fight prions? This is hard because they’re found everywhere, on the ground and in the feces of cervids.
I wrote about this before in 2/12, the initial reaction by the state was to ban baiting in the Lower Peninsula.  Increased harvesting in the surrounding area and increased testing of deer for CWD followed.  Now, however, the federal funding has run out for the programs trying to deal with the disease and so has the interest.

EHD in deer


The state has changed its “Plan” for managing chronic wasting disease.  According to State Veterinarian Steven Halstead “CWD is a reportable disease, so if the disease is detected in free ranging cervids or a Michigan Privately Owned Cervid facility, we will define a surveillance zone around the positive case.”  “This plan should protect Michigan’s cervid industry as well as Michigan’s free-ranging deer population while meeting our ultimate goal of safeguarding animal health.”

The principal changes to the plan are:

The plan will be implemented if a CWD-positive animal is found within 10 miles of the Michigan border, rather than 50 miles as in the original plan.

Baiting and feeding will be banned in any county within a 10-mile radius of where CWD is detected.

All Privately Owned Cervid facilities within that zone will be required to complete increased disease testing of their herds to monitor for signs of CWD.

If the disease is diagnosed in a Privately Owned Cervid facility, all facilities that have had contact (through purchases, sales or immediate contact) will undergo increased disease surveillance testing, and exposed animals will be removed from contact herds.

Once deer farms and CWD are there, the costs can become huge to inspect and monitor. One report showed that Michigan had approximately 450 deer farms and those farms paid $106,640 in inspection and regulatory program fees in 2009. Sounds good — except for the fact that state taxpayers paid $1.36 million to do that inspection and CWD monitoring work. With the loss of federal funding will the cost of inspections go up for the deer farms or will there be less inspections?

Let’s hope research will come up with a solution for this bad situation. Hopefully then we can come up with a plan.

Get Outdoors Downriver.


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