Editors Blog

Schmidt: Michigan Deer Hunters Being Fed CWD Lies

We’re not exactly sure what’s going on in Michigan, their deer herd and chronic wasting disease — other than the fact that state-employed deer managers there seem intent on spinning the same, old bureaucratic lies about CWD that nearly crippled their deer hunting brothers and sisters across the border in Wisconsin more than 16 years ago.

dan schmidt deer cwd

In what could be best described as feel-good politics, the Michigan DNR is proposing new regulations that will not further the testing for CWD, but rather limit the means in how hunters can pursue whitetails. (photo by Daniel Schmidt)

In a 40-page memo issued late last week by DNR Director Keith Creagh and Natural Resources Commission Chair Vicki Pontz, the state is on the cusp of embarking on the same failed CWD policies that Wisconsin adopted after CWD was found in wild deer there in November 2001.

Among the lowlights of a litany of edicts proposed for the state are a ban on baiting and supplemental feeding in 17 counties, effective Jan. 31, 2019. Furthermore, the state is calling for an end to the use of urine-based lures for deer hunting. These are just two of the state’s recommendations to “combat the further spread of CWD.”

Let’s stop there for a moment and do some prefacing. This discussion should not have anything to do with the so-called ethics of hunting. These recommendations are being made solely upon a perceived necessity in the name of science. If you take the action on that face — and that face only — it not only fails the litmus test, it smacks of state-employees taking the easy way out. It’s a huge injustice to not only Michigan’s hard-working deer hunters, it’s a slap in the face to deer hunters everywhere. It’s time to (again) debunk these CWD myths.

To recap:

1. There is no hard science — anywhere — that indicates a direct connection between deer urine and the oft-cited “50 percent CWD infection rate.” Stop believing everything you read on the Internet, including what’s coming from state agencies — like the Michigan Department of Natural Resources — in their latest recommendations to “combat CWD.” Claim: In a recent memo, the MI-DNR reports “that 10 ml of contaminated urine … contains enough prions to infect 50 percent of exposed deer.” Truth: Deer & Deer Hunting knows of no peer-reviewed, published, scientific research to back up this claim.

2. There is no hard science that indicates a “95 percent CWD transmission rate” among deer that feed at bait and/or supplemental feeding stations. Claims: In that same memo, the MI-DNR states “a review of 29 studies” indicates an average transmission rate of 95 percent among deer that feed near baiting/supplemental feeding areas.

Truth: Although some deer biologists and researchers believe there might be a link to increased risks of CWD transmission and feeding sites, we know of no such studies that were scientific or peer-reviewed, much less published in a scientific journal. These wake-up calls are being cast across the country. We have been down this road before. The mass hysteria caused in the early 2000s taught us not to support such measures unless there are results. We were promised results and never saw them. Worse, we learned that throwing the word “research” in there does nothing unless you have the papers to back it up. Michigan doesn’t have them.

And just because it’s happening in Michigan (and not your state), don’t believe for a minute that it won’t sometime very soon. Deer hunters need to rise up and demand science-based wildlife management from scientists who use science how it is supposed to be used: To disprove a theory. Not come up with the answer first, then do the research. It doesn’t work that way.

Combatting CWD shouldn’t be a case in pussy-footing around the subject. It should begin (and I’d argue, end) with real research and less politically correct, bureaucratic rhetoric.

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