DNR testing deer samples from Norway for CWD

Almost 200 deer taken in Dickinson County during the firearm season have been brought to the Norway station so far, most to be tested for chronic wasting disease, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician reported this week.

About 178 of the 182 deer registered at the Norway station have had heads or lymph node samples submitted to be checked for CWD, said Ryan McGillviray, who normally works at the DNR’s Crystal Falls office but is helping staff in Norway for November and likely early December.

Both numbers are “way up” from what has been registered during firearm seasons in recent years, McGillviray said.

“They’re really concerned with the deer herd and they’re concerned with this disease,” McGillviray said.

Caused by an aberrant protein called a prion, CWD attacks the animal’s brain, creating small lesions that result in neurologic symptoms in deer, moose and elk. It is considered 100 percent fatal in those species.

Hunters who submit deer for testing can keep antlers and the venison after samples are taken. To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in humans.

The DNR in October announced Dickinson County had the Upper Peninsula’s first confirmed case of CWD, in a 4-year-old whitetail doe killed with under a damage permit on a farm in Waucedah Township, about 4 miles from the Michigan-Wisconsin border.

In response, the DNR set up a roughly 10-mile CWD core area, centered on Waucedah Township, with the goal of testing at least 600 deer from that area to better determine how established CWD might be in region.

The submission rate so far has the DNR confident that target will be met, even as a strictly voluntary program, McGillviray said.

Hunters also reported good deer numbers this season. Those brought in to the station have been trending older than in most years, with most aged at 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old. Usually 1 1/2-year-olds — the fawns from the previous year — would make up a large proportion of the harvest, McGillviray said.

They’ve even had a couple of 4 1/2- and 5 1/2-year-olds, he said, adding, “It’s pretty unusual for them to get that old; 5 1/2 is very rare.”

Deer brought in outwardly have appeared in decent condition, McGillviray said.

“It’s looking like a fairly good season so far,” McGillviray said.

Reports from the first few days of the firearm season that opened Nov. 15 indicated numbers were up at all of the western U.P. stations, while the eastern U.P. sites were slightly down.

License sales statewide declined by 1.2 percent this year but were up by 1.6 percent in the Upper Peninsula’s 15 counties.

CWD has been found in free-ranging deer in six other Michigan counties, all in the Lower Peninsula — Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm — with a total of 63 deer testing positive downstate for the disease.

But CWD has spread though much of Wisconsin, with 25 of 72 counties having confirmed wild cases and another five with captive deer that tested positive, including a 2-year-old doe that died while giving birth earlier this year at Wild Rivers Whitetails in Goodman. It was the first CWD case in neighboring Marinette County.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or bbloom@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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