Travis Smola

Michigan DNR Recommends New CWD-Containment Zone Around Deer Ranch

Michigan's fight against CWD continues.

A new chronic wasting disease containment area may be in the future for Michigan hunters in Montcalm and Mecosta counties. reports the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has made a recommendation for a new CWD zone in DMU No. 359.

At the heart of this whole mess is the absolutely bizarre story of an Amish deer processor providing the owner of the ranch with extra deer heads for DNR testing. The story had the worst possible outcome when two of the heads provided to the DNR by the ranch then tested positive for the deadly neurological disease.

The big problem is, since the rancher submitted heads from the processor and the ranch and the Amish farmer took in deer processing jobs from all over, investigators aren't entirely sure where the two positive heads came from. So now they're conducting genetic testing to try and trace the heads back to their true source.

That could lead to additional action if the infected deer are found to be from somewhere other than the game ranch. But at this point, the DNR is acting under the assumption the does came from the captive herd.

"At this point, we're proceeding as if we have an infected cervid operation," state vet James Averill said.

But until test results come back, the DNR doesn't want to take any chances. No signs of the disease have been found either inside or outside the farm since then, but the DNR believes tests done since aren't enough.

"We simply can't take 265 deer out of an area and say that's good enough," DNR deer management specialist Chad Stewart said.

The establishment of a new CWD zone will have to be approved by the Natural Resources Commission's next meeting, with a decision expected by June.

If approved, the new zone would affect the townships of Austin, Morton, Mecosta, Hinton, Aetna, Deerfield, Winfield and Reynolds. And it would be a long term thing. Mlive reports a hunt specifically targeted at managing the disease may be held in 2018.

The good news for hunters is that this new zone won't be quite as restrictive as the other in the state. Hunters will be required to submit heads for testing, but the DNR isn't recommending a baiting ban or other restrictions.