Taking on a spreading deer disease

A fatal neurological disease called chronic wasting disease is threatening the future of Michigan’s hunting and conservation efforts.

A fatal neurological disease called chronic wasting disease is threatening the future of Michigan’s hunting and conservation efforts.

A fatal neurological disease is threatening the future of Michigan’s hunting and conservation efforts. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects deer, elk and moose and is caused by an abnormal form of cellular protein called a prion (pronounced PREE-on). CWD may show no symptoms for years but in advanced stages may present as odd behavior, emaciation, listlessness and loss of bodily functions. All CWD cases eventually result in death of the animal. Michigan State University researchers are tracking deer movements, using modeling techniques to understand risk factors for disease spread, and working with agencies to develop cost-effective management options.

  • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is teaming with MSU on a joint wildlife disease initiative that in part addresses CWD. A $4.7 million grant is supporting the research projects, which were funded in 2019.
  • More than 50 percent of all conservation efforts in Michigan are funded by deer hunting license sales.
  • More than half of U.S. states have documented cases of CWD.

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