It seems worth asking again: how much do you worry about CWD? If you’re in Michigan, the topic is certainly on your mind at the moment.
After a 3-year-old doe at a Kent County captive breeding facility tested positive for the disease, the state’s DNR has quarantined 580 deer and elk farms and banned baiting in the Lower Peninsula. According to this Grand Rapids Press story, the impact of such measures varies depending on who you talk to — but everyone is feeling the effects.
If you’re a breeder, of course, the news couldn’t be worse. “If you get it at your facility, it’s terminal,” Alex Draper, president of the Michigan Deer & Elk Association of Breeders told the paper. “The herd is terminated, and you are out of business.”
As for area hunters, the ban on baiting has drawn a number of angry phone calls to the DNR from sportsmen disagreeing with the move. But officials point out that CWD is easily spread in areas where deer congregate, so the ban is a necessary step. And I’m sure most area hunters understand the importance of containment.
Then there’s the meat processors, such as a Big Rapids business that typically donates 16,000 pounds of venison each year to the Sportsmen Against Hunger program. Kelly’s Catering and Deer Processing expected to start receiving deer by Sept. 4, but now its owner wonders how much meat he’ll be able to provide to local pantries.
DNR officials are currently reviewing the records of six breeding facilities, and tracing the transport of deer between them. They also plan to test 300 wild deer in the area. A DNR spokesperson called the department’s activities to determine the level of contamination, “a big detective job.”
Personally, I find the topic of CWD fascinating (though, of course, not in a good way). It’s such a complex issue. There’s the biology of a degenerative disease, its frightening spread through sometimes shady business dealings among deer facilities, and the complicated bureaucracy of containing it. Not to mention the fact that the prions responsible for the disease just don’t go away — once they’re in the soil, long term contamination is a major issue. The whole thing feels a bit like a sleeper epidemic. It goes through periods of seeming inactivity, before erupting into a very real chain of problems that affects every segment of the deer hunting community. -K.H.