Plotting a solution to prevent chronic wasting disease in Michigan wildlife

Michigan State University researchers use expertise to develop preventative measures from chronic wasting disease.

A whitetail buck stands in a field.

A disease of the nervous system exclusive to deer, elk, moose and other hoofed, antlered, ruminant mammals, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is similar to mad cow disease. The fatal sickness manifests in a range of behavioral issues, including listlessness, tremors, nervousness and increased thirst, as well as weight loss over time. 

There is no known cure or vaccine for CWD, which is notoriously difficult to control. It spreads through direct fluid contact, and the structurally abnormal proteins are shed into the environment where the disease can persist for over a decade.

To control CWD outbreaks and prevent it from gaining a foothold in the state, Michigan State University wildlife researchers are using expertise in deer behavior and population dynamics to develop a predictive model identifying regions with dense deer populations and close proximity to states with CWD problems. This will give the Michigan Department of Natural Resources a valuable tool to fight the disease.

  • Hunting, primarily deer hunting, contributes about $2 billion to Michigan’s economy annually.
  • Nine CWD cases have been identified in Michigan since the disease was first discovered in the state in 2015.
  • Researchers developed a similar tool in New York in 2005, contributing to that state eliminating the disease by 2010.

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