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Michigan Authorities Recommend Banning Deer Feeding And Baiting To Prevent 'Zombie Deer' Disease

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Chronic wasting disease affects prions such as deer, elk, and moose, and causes strange changes in the animals' behavior. The occurrence of CWD is rather low, but may exceed 10 percent in places where the disease is established.   ( Ray Jennings | Pixabay )

As of March, Michigan is just one of 23 U.S. states with reported chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer. State authorities present their recommendations to prevent the so-called zombie deer disease.

Recommendations To Prevent ‘Zombie Deer’ Disease

After a six-month-long effort in which Michigan authorities reviewed all available data on chronic wasting disease (CWD) and engaged members of the public in 11 public meetings, online surveys, and other recommendation opportunities, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission is set to present and discuss recommendations in regard to CWD next week.

In the June 14 meeting, authorities will discuss their gathered recommendations to help preserve the health of the state’s deer population, as well as to prevent the spread of the incurable disease. These recommendations include disallowing deer feeding as it increases the chances of transmission through wildlife congregation, as well as the use of baits or lures in hunting. For instance, as CWD is believed to be spread through bodily fluids, one of the recommendations includes banning deer urine-based lures that are currently used in hunting.

The state is taking more aggressive action in regard to tackling deer health and CWD as it is one of 23 continental U.S. states where CWD cases have been confirmed. The state’s actions before this year’s hunting season are especially important as 48 out of the 57 positive CWD confirmations in free-ranging deer occurred during the 2017 hunting season.

‘Zombie Deer’ Disease

As of March 2018, CWD has been found in free-ranging and farmed deer, elk, and moose in at least 23 states and two Canadian provinces, as well as in several reindeer and moose in Norway and South Korea. The disease was first identified in the 1960s in captive deer in Colorado, then in wild deer by 1981. By the 1990s, the disease has been reported in northern Colorado as well as in southern Wyoming.

CWD is called the “zombie deer” disease by some as it results in prions such as deer, elk, or moose, to change in appearance and engage in strange behavior such as aggression, drooling, and lack of fear of people. They also drastically lose weight, stumble, lose their coordination, become listless, and experience excessive thirst or urination.

It is a progressive disease that affects the tissues, brain, and spinal cord of the creature, and is believed to be caused by abnormal prion proteins that damage normal prion proteins and eventually cause brain damage. Though CWD’s incubation period may extend to over a year, the disease is always fatal.

So far, there is no strong evidence to suggest that CWD may be transferred to humans, but experts are still concerned that CWD may still pose a risk to humans, and should therefore limit potential exposures to CWD.

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