UPCAC preps to study deer migration and disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) led the discussion at the Western Upper Peninsula Citizens Advisory Council meeting on Jan. 18.

Ted Minzey, DNR U.P. wildlife supervisor, gave reports about the disease and how it has become a “top priority” for the department.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brain of infected animals, creating small lesions, which result in death. It is common in deer.

Minzey updated the council on several counties where new findings of the disease were. Most are in the lower peninsula and Wisconsin, while none were in the U.P. as of yet.

The council received recommendations of things they should do to help with spreading awareness and to try taking control of the disease.

Those recommendations include pursuing the help of an outside marketing agency, forming a consortium of states and provinces, working cooperatively with the Agriculture and Rural Development Commission, continuing to employ a science-based strategy for CWD management and developing statewide, science-based management plans based on regional prevalence of CWD.

The recommendations involve researching and educating the public on the disease to keep it from spreading.

“We’ve got more work to do,” said Minzey.

The DNR has already tested 1,500 dear this past year. They are also beginning a deer movement study that would help better understand the CWD spread.

“The purpose of the study is to gain an understanding of how connected our animals are and if we find the disease, where we need to surveil and manage,” said Minzey.

The U.P. is at a disadvantage because the disease is more likely to spread faster.

When speaking of deer migration, Minzey said, “our populations are so intermixed that if we get this disease our potential for spread is significantly higher, and the chance for it to spread is faster than almost any other place that they see this disease.”

The council wants to be proactive and have the updated information in order to be ready should the disease hit the U.P. The study will be “about a 10-year process, but the hope is to have an understanding of deer movement across the majority of the U.P.,” said Minzey.