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Sharp Shooters in Michigan Hunt for Deer with Chronic Wasting Disease

Michigan Public Broadcasting Radio

Sharp shooters in Michigan are on the hunt for deer with chronic wasting disease.

Within a two-mile radius of the Meridan Township, sharp shooters hunt for deer with chronic wasting disease to collect samples for the Department of Natural Resources. The Department decided to dispatch the sharp shooters after a six-year-old female deer was confirmed with the disease this April.

Chronic wasting disease is quickly becoming a serious problem across the U. S. The disease is highly contagious and attacks the brains of infected deer. It can take up to 18 months before an infected deer starts to show symptoms, which include excessive salivation, extreme weight loss, excessive urination, excessive staggering, and signs of distress. Infected deer also tend to carry their heads in a lowered position and their ears droop.

While it cannot be passed on to humans, it always spells death for infected deer. They can live years before the disease finally breaks them down.

The hunters are only allowed to enter certain parks at night while they are closed. They use highly suppressed rifles to keep things as quite as possible, and they work with local law enforcement to keep everyone safe. Some people have even offered their private land to the hunters if necessary.

“Our agency’s role in this is to make sure that the public is safe, to make sure that there’s nobody in the parks where the sharp shooters are working, to also identify any deer possibly either in car deer accidents or may have died as a result of a sickness and get those deer to the DNR,” said Lt. Plaga of the Meridian Township Police Department.

“Meridian Township is just trying to cooperate with the DNR. Chronic Wasting Disease is a serious problem that could affect the entire state’s deer herd, and so the better we are to contain this situation, the better the entire state will be and the better the wild life will be.”

While everyone is cooperating, not all of them are happy about the process or comfortable with the hunters taking deer at night. Everyone seems to understand the importance of the research and hope to see it over soon, especially before the fall deer season begins.

“We hope we’re only going to find you know one or two infected animals possibly, and the third very close to the infected animal that we found already. If that’s the case then, then we have chance,” said Dr. Stephen Schmitt from the Department of Natural Resources.

“We have one swing at it so to speak to keep it from becoming established, and then we’ll deal with keeping deer from concentrating with the feed and baiting ban and reducing deer numbers to prevent the transmission to decrease the transmission rate,” he said.

NEXT: Deer Diseases 101: What You Need to Know [PICS]

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Sharp Shooters in Michigan Hunt for Deer with Chronic Wasting Disease