The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been collecting data on chronic wasting disease in the deer herd and CWD is on the rise again.

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What is Chronic Wasting Disease?

Mule deer suffering the effects of Chronic Wasting Disease
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Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease that affects deer species like whitetail deer, blacktail deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. We only have whitetail deer, elk, and moose in the wild in Michigan.
The disease causes weight loss, tremors, lack of coordination, drooling, excessive thirst, and eventually death.

How Long Has DNR Been Testing Michigan Deer for CDW?

An unhealthy Deer
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Michigan DNR has been testing for CWD since 2015 when the first deer was found to have the disease. This has been a Lower Peninsula issue for the most part but in 2018 one deer tested positive in the Upper Peninsula in Dickinson County.

Cases in 2018 and 2019 were at the highest levels but also more deer were tested during those years. Out of 50,000 deer tested in the two years, only 127 came back positive.

CWD Test Results for 2021

A deer head being prepared to be stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist.
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According to WOOD, 7,200 deer were tested in 2021 with 25 deer coming back positive. DNR Deer, Elk, and Mosse Management specialist Chad Stewart said, "Some years we've intensified surveillance in known hot spots, and other years we have looked elsewhere trying to find the disease, specifically avoiding those hot spots."

Wild does among nature
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What is unfortunate about CWD is you cannot eradicate it completely from the herd. This means baiting for deer in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan will likely never come back.

What Counties in Michigan Have Had CWD in Deer?

Detailed map of Michigan with surroundings, provinces and capital
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WOOD reported the following counties have had deer test positive for CWD: Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm. So far Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm counties have the highest concentration of positive cases.

White-tailed Deer buck and doe in snow taken in southern MN in the wild
Stan Tekiela Author/Naturalist/Wildlife Photographer/Getty Images

Hopefully, the DNR can learn more by testing and comparing data. You can help by notifying the DNR if you find random dead deer that have not been shot by a hunter or while hunting you see sick deer in your area.

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