Hunters pack your rubber gloves to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease
Prions from infected cervid are easily transferred in the environment, last for decades and could wipe out the Michigan deer population.
Since 2015, Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found in deer in several of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula counties including Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, and Montcalm, as well as most recently in October 2018 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Dickenson county. Deer hunters should be aware of how easily CWD can be transferred to in cervids such as deer, elk or moose.
CWD is a neurological disease that affects cervid animals. It can be transmitted through direct animal to animal contact or contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, and/or certain carcass parts such as brain tissue and spinal cord of an infected animal.
Hunters need to be aware that the disease can also be spread via infected plants and soil. Prions, which are single proteins that cause the infections, are not easily killed by traditional strategies such as heat. Research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has shown prions have been able to bind to the roots and leaves of wheat grass plants when incubated with contaminated material, even in highly diluted amounts. They also found that plants grown in infected soil can transport the deadly prions. Hamsters fed the contaminated plants contracted CWD in the research project.
Although current research has found no direct link from CWD to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend not consuming venison from infected deer. Michigan State University Extension highly recommends that venison from a positively infected CWD deer not be consumed. When in doubt, do not consume the venison and properly dispose of the entire carcass. This brief background is meant to emphasize that CWD is a serious emerging disease in Michigan and hunters can take steps to prevent the spread of it.
Michigan State University Extension has a free bulletin that explains how to field dress, butcher, and prepare venison. Here is a quick checklist of additional gear to pack when hunting:
- Several pairs of tight-fitting, disposable gloves – these not only can protect hunters from disease but also assist in keeping the deer carcass clean during the dressing process.
- Clean, sharp knife to make cuts and split carcass. Use separate knives from your household knives.
- Pre-moistened wipes and/or container of clean water to maintain sanitation of knife and saw.
- Strings about six to eight inches long to tie off the anus and assist in other dressing procedures.
- Large resealable food grade plastic bag to place the heart and/or liver.
- Clean, dry towels or paper towels to dry the carcass with after washing.
- Rope to tie legs apart or drag deer.
- Kill tag attached to a string.
- Multiple non-porous disposable trash bags if hunting in the CWD core management zones to dispose of all carcass parts, including guts, and remove them from the environment.
All deer harvested in the Michigan CWD Core Area (Ionia, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, and Newaygo counties) and Management Zone (Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, and Newaygo counties), cannot be moved out of those areas unless:
- It is deboned meat, quarters or other parts of a cervid that do not have any part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, antlers attached to a skull cap cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue, hides, upper canine teeth, or a finished taxidermist mount; or
- The head is submitted at a designated DNR drop off locations within 24 hours after killing the deer. Dropoff locations include DNR check points, drop boxes and some venison processors.
Carcasses can be moved into the CWD Core Area from a CWD Management Zone county with no restrictions. Hunters may not take a deer from the CWD Core Area into the CWD Management Zone for processing unless the conditions above are met.