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Tracking collars gather data on whitetails for new CWD study

Tracking collars gather data on whitetails for new CWD study

By Michigan Department of Natural Resources

As part of a multiyear study of deer disease, including chronic wasting disease, Michigan State University and the Department of Natural Resources will place location-tracking collars on white-tailed deer in south central Michigan.

The study will assess deer movement and distribution patterns, and their influence on disease spread in and around Clinton and Ingham counties. This is one of a series of aggressive actions to address CWD in Michigan’s deer population.

CWD first was detected in free-ranging deer in mid-Michigan in 2015.

The disease attacks the brain of infected animals which result in death. It is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or by contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood or body parts of an infected animal, or infected soil.
There are no known health risks posed to humans by CWD, however the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends animals infected with the disease not be eaten.

A scientifically based understanding of localized deer dispersal rates, timing and direction, seasonal movement patterns and basic population characteristics is critical for developing effective disease control strategies.

“We know that that CWD may be spread through direct deer-to-deer contact and by the shedding of CWD proteins or prions into the environment. By understanding where and why deer are moving across the region, we can better understand the role deer play in moving the disease,” said Dr. Sonja Christensen, postdoctoral research fellow in the Boone and Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Center at MSU.

This study will improve the ability to proactively manage CWD, particularly in areas where the disease is just being discovered.

“Understanding how local deer populations change with the presence of CWD and associated management actions will help us measure the effectiveness of disease control actions and anticipate future disease management needs,” said Dr. Dwayne Etter, DNR research specialist.

The research will also measure how deer move during different seasons and track movement in real time, which could focus efforts on areas with high probabilities of disease risk. The work is part of a larger collaborative effort between the DNR, MSU, the Hal and Jean Glassen Memorial Foundation and the Boone and Crockett Club.

More information on the deer movement study can be found here.

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