Hunters pack your rubber gloves to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

Prions from infected cervid are easily transferred in the environment, last for decades and could wipe out the Michigan deer population.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a neurological disease that affects cervid (deer, elk or moose) animals. It can be transmitted through direct animal to animal contact or contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, certain carcass parts such as brain tissue and spinal cord of an infected animal. The disease can also be spread via infected soil. Prions, which are single proteins, are what cause the infections and are not easily killed by traditional strategies such as heat. Research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has shown prions have been able to bind to the roots and leaves of wheat grass plants when incubated with contaminated material, even when incubated in highly diluted amounts. They also found that plants grown in infected soil can transport the deadly prions. Hamsters that were fed the contaminated plants contracted CWD in the research project. There is additional information on CWD, including from the State of Michigan. Although current research has found no direct link from CWD to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend not consuming venison from infected deer. Michigan State University Extension highly recommends that venison from a positively infected CWD deer not be consumed. When in doubt, do not consume the venison and properly dispose of the entire carcass. This brief background is meant to emphasize that CWD is a serious emerging disease in Michigan and hunters can take steps to prevent the spread of it.

Michigan State University Extension has a free bulletin that explains how to field dress, butcher, and prepare venison. Here is a quick checklist of additional gear to pack when hunting:

  • Several pairs of tight-fitting, disposable gloves – these not only can protect hunters from disease but also assist in keeping the deer carcass clean during the dressing process.
  • Clean, sharp knife to make cuts and split carcass. Use separate knives from your household knives.
  • Pre-moistened wipes and/or container of clean water to maintain sanitation of knife and saw.
  • Strings about six to eight inches long to tie off the anus and assist in other dressing procedures.
  • Large resealable food grade plastic bag to place the heart and/or liver into.
  • Clean, dry towels or paper towels to dry the carcass with after washing.
  • Rope to tie legs apart or drag deer.
  • Kill tag attached to a string.
  • Flashlight.
  • Multiple non-porous disposable trash bags if hunting in the CWD core management zones to dispose of all carcass parts, including guts, and remove them from the environment. 

All deer harvested in the CWD core areas and management zones, core area DMU 333 as well as DMU 359 must be taken to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources checkpoint for testing. Testing is encouraged for DMU 419. Deer taken from other areas are encouraged to be taken for testing.

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