Firearm Deer Hunting Season

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The start of the firearm deer hunting season has thousands of hunters on the prowl. But area scientists are just as interested in this year's herd of deer as their counterparts.

Chronic Wasting Disease found in deer in Wisconsin has some worried about the threat here in Michigan. Deer selected from 40 counties in Michigan will be continuously sampled this hunting season.

Much is still unknown about the disease that has yet to show up Michigan. State officials say the disease can't be spread to humans.

The Department of Natural Resources says it expects more than 700,000 hunters to take part in opening day, killing more than 300,000 deer. Extended Web Coverage

Chronic Wasting Disease

  • To date, chronic wasting disease has been found only in members of the deer family in North America. Animals include: Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed deer.

  • There is ongoing research to explore the possibility of transmission of chronic wasting disease to other species.

Clinical Signs

  • Most cases of chronic wasting disease occur in adult animals.

  • The disease is progressive and always fatal.

  • The most obvious and consistent clinical sign of chronic wasting disease is weight loss over time.

  • Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals.

What Causes chronic wasting disease?

  • The agent responsible for chronic wasting disease has not been completely characterized.

  • There are three main theories on the nature of the agent that causes chronic wasting disease:
    • The agent is a prion, an abnormal form of a normal protein, known as cellular prion protein, most commonly found in the central nervous system.

    • The agent is an unconventional virus.

    • The agent is a virino, or "incomplete" virus composed of nucleic acid protected by host proteins. The chronic wasting disease agent is smaller than most viral particles and does not evoke any detectable immune response or inflammatory reaction in the host animal.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed to this report.