Chronic wasting disease identified in a Mecosta County farmed deer

By John Raffel

LANSING – Chronic wasting disease was confirmed this week in a one-and-a-half-year-old female deer from a Mecosta County deer farm. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has announced.

The sample was submitted for testing as a part of the state’s CWD surveillance program.

“The deer farmer who submitted the sample has gone above and beyond any state requirements to protect their deer from disease, and it is unknown at this time how this producer’s herd became infected with CWD,” said MDARD State Veterinarian James Averill, DVM in a statement. “In partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we are taking the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of all of Michigan’s deer populations.”

“What we know about CWD is always evolving,” said DNR state wildlife veterinarian, Kelly Straka, DVM, in a statement. “As new positives are found, we learn more about how it’s transmitted to determine the best way to protect both free-ranging and farmed deer.”

MDARD and DNR are following the Michigan Surveillance and Response Plan for Chronic Wasting Disease of Free-Ranging and Privately Owned Cervids, the department said. The positive farm has been quarantined and, based on the plan, DNR and MDARD will take the following steps:

•Conduct trace investigations to find possible areas of spread.

•Identify deer farms within the 15-mile radius and implement individual herd plans that explain the CWD testing requirements and movement restrictions for each herd. These herds will also undergo a records audit and fence inspection.

•Partner with the USDA on the management of the herd.

•CWD is transmitted directly from one animal to another and indirectly through the environment. Infected animals may display abnormal behavior, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation. To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

Since May 2015, when the first free-ranging white-tailed CWD positive deer was found in Michigan, the DNR has tested approximately 23,000 deer. Of those tested, as of December 6, 30 cases of CWD have been suspected or confirmed in deer from Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties. This is the first year any free-ranging deer were found CWD positive in Montcalm or Kent counties.

The DNR has dramatically increase its check state coverage during the deer season, in response to the CWD situation.

“This deer (that tested positive) was brought to a deer farm,” local DNR wildlife biologist Pete Kailing said. More information about CWD – including Michigan’s CWD surveillance and response plan – is available at “The guys that have deer farms have to submit heads for surveillance routinely. So it’s kind of a curve ball for us. No one saw that coming. It’s not good news.”

The DNR had been focusing on southern Mecosta and northern Montcalm counties.

“If it’s within our existing nine-township surveillance area, that would be good since we’re already looking hard down there,” Kailing said. “If it’s not within the nine-township area, it may mean establishment of a new surveillance zone around it. Our division has not formulated a response yet. This just came to my attention (on Wednesday afternoon). The geographical locations will help us determine our next steps.”



Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at

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