I-94 Deer Stops Snare Illegal Whitetails Coming Into Michigan

By Rosemary Parker

Five Michigan hunters accused of illegal transportation of deer into the state will be arraigned in the 5th District Court in Berrien County, and if convicted face possible fines of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

The hunters were among several stopped by conservation officers in a recent two-day effort to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease by targeting illegal importation of deer into Michigan, said Lt. Gerald Thayer of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division. CWD is a neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in deer, elk and moose. There currently is no treatment for CWD; it is fatal in all cases.
The operation targeted illegal importation into Michigan of deer shot by hunters in states with chronic wasting disease in their free-ranging deer herds, Thayer said.

Michigan law prohibits importing deer from those states and provinces because CWD resides in brains, bones, bone marrow and inner organs of animals and can lie dormant in the soil for years, Thayer said.

Conservation officers conducted operations near the I-94 corridor of the Michigan/Indiana border, speaking with hunters at rest stops and gas stations along the corridor, he said, to learn of deer incoming from Wisconsin or Illinois.

Six harvested deer were seized. Five deer were transported into Michigan from Illinois, and one was transported from Wisconsin.

The seized deer have been transported to the Michigan DNR Wildlife Disease Lab in East Lansing for testing for CWD; they will then be incinerated.

"The transportation of whitetail deer into Michigan from a CWD-positive state is a very serious concern," said Conservation Officer Andrew Bauer, who organized the enforcement operation. "CWD can spread from illegally imported deer to our deer herd."

The DNR announced in late May 2015 that CWD had been found for the first time in a free-ranging white-tail deer in Ingham County. Since that time, two additional deer also have tested positive.
Current scientific understanding suggests CWD may be transmitted both directly through animal-to-animal contact, as well as indirectly through a contaminated environment, according to a news release from the DNR. Previous studies have shown that CWD prions exist in the saliva, urine, blood and feces of infected cervids.
Additionally, a study by the University of Wisconsin suggests that the CWD infectious agent can remain indefinitely in certain types of soil, and binding to soil dramatically increases the infectiousness of CWD prions.
To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to humans or any non-cervids, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

Harvested free-ranging deer, elk or moose from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan all have importation restrictions.

These states and provinces have detected CWD in free-ranging animals; therefore, only the following parts of deer, elk or moose carcasses may be brought into Michigan: deboned meat, antlers, antlers attached to a skull cap cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue, hides, upper canine teeth or a finished taxidermy mount.

Any hunter notified by another state or province that a deer, elk or moose brought into Michigan has tested positive for CWD must contact the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab within two business days at 517-336-5030 and provide details.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have regulations on importation from Canada.

The rules and precautions are spelled out in the DNR's hunting guide, Thayer said.

"Everyone knows how important it is" to keep the disease out of Michigan's deer herd, Thayer said, "especially when look at how much the economy was hurt" in those states that have the disease, he said.

"Most of our sportsmen are truly sportsmen," he said. "There are just a few try to ruin it for everyone else (by ignoring laws), but it's our job to stop them."