Midwest Directors Support CWD Workshop

July 24, 2019  Rhinelander, WI—

The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) today announced its support of the CWD Collaboration Workshop being held this week in Madison, WI. MAFWA President Kelly Hepler, Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, said, “CWD is one of the most critically important issues facing fish and wildlife directors today and into the future. We thank Wisconsin for organizing this workshop.”

The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) was formed in 1934 to provide a common forum for state and provincial fish and wildlife agencies to share ideas, information, pool resources, and form action initiatives to better the management and conservation of fish and wildlife resources in the Midwest. MAFWA represents 13 state and 3 provincial Midwest fish and wildlife agencies.

CWD has been detected in 12 of MAFWAs 16 states and provinces. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

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Asian carp DNA found near Lake Michigan

Leonard N. Fleming, The Detroit News Published 9:42 p.m. ET May 19, 2019

The DNA of six Asian carp were detected in Illinois just a few miles from the shore of Lake Michigan, sounding alarm bells among those hoping to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced that the environmental DNA (eDNA) of three bighead carp and three silver carp were found in Lake Calumet, south of Chicago near the Indiana border. It is unclear if any actual fish were found, officials monitoring the situation said. An Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jumps from the Illinois River near Havana, Illinois, in 2012. Researchers reported last week that carp DNA has been found in Lake Calumet in Illinois, just a few miles from Lake Michigan. (Photo: John Flesher / AP file) “The finding of bighead and silver carp eDNA in Lake Calumet, just a few miles from Lake Michigan, is troubling news,” said Molly Flanagan, the vice president of policy for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, an environmental organization dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes. “It’s a stark reminder that we don’t have time to waste. While the agencies continue monitoring and assessing the status of Asian carp, we need to move quickly with the construction of additional Asian carp protections at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam.” Jennifer Caddick, the vice president of communications and engagement for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said this isn’t an indication that Asian carp are in the Great Lakes but the eDNA findings show the fish were close by. “It’s sort of a warning light,” she said. Caddick said there are still a series of locks before leading into Lake Michigan from Lake Calumet Advocates seeking to protect the Great Lakes have long been trying to keep the invasive species out of the system. Illinois officials have been discussing a stronger lock and dam system aimed at to protect Lake Michigan from Asian carp. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also has weighed in on federal plans to keep carp out of the Great Lakes with some support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to install fish-blocking devices at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow released a statement about the latest development, saying “news once again demonstrates the urgent need to take action to stop Asian carp” from entering the Great Lakes. “I will continue leading bipartisan efforts to ensure sufficient funding to monitor, detect, and take emergency actions against this threat,” she said. “At the same time, the Army Corps and the administration must finally send Congress comprehensive plans for Brandon Road while also pursuing every possible option to prevent Asian carp from entering and wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes.”

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New DNR grants target deer disease — before disease targets us

Neal Rubin, The Detroit News Published 12:01 a.m. ET April 22, 2019

Russ Mason isn’t saying chronic wasting disease will spread from deer and their brethren to other species, including our own. He’s careful about that. But “evidence is mounting,” said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Chief, “that it can” — one of multiple reasons the DNR will parcel out up to $4.7 million in new grants to help protect the state’s deer, elk and moose. Partnering with Michigan State University, the DNR hopes to find new ammunition in the fight against an invariably fatal ailment that could ultimately affect everything the agency does. The goal is to inspire innovation and potentially create collaborations across state lines or between disciplines. “The vast majority of our resources come from license dollars,” Mason said, “and in a state as deer-centric as Michigan, most of that is deer related. Virtually everything we do for wildlife, game or non-game; for threatened or endangered species; for sensitive habitats — all of that is balanced on our license structure.” If the deer population becomes decimated, he said, so will the DNR budget, taking a toll on “all those things people enjoy.”

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) comes from the same family as mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and is protein based, said DNR wildlife veterinarian Kelly Straka, making it a “relative rarity in the veterinary world.” While it’s unknown whether CWD can infect humans, said a Centers for Disease Control report, “studies raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to people and suggest that it is important to prevent human exposures to CWD.” Caused by a normal protein known as a prion that folds incorrectly, CWD prompts a slow degeneration of the brain that ultimately leads to emaciation, odd behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. Spread by contact with other animals or contaminated food or grounds, CWD becomes infectious quickly, but deer can appear disease-free for 18 months before the effects become obvious within 30 days of death. Once infected, Mason said, landscapes “as far as we know cannot be disinfected. Prions are not affected by cold. They’re not susceptible to heat except at cremation levels. All the disinfectants people think about, they don’t work.” CWD was first found in a free-ranging Michigan deer in May 2015. Since then, it has been confirmed in eight Lower Peninsula counties and one in the Upper Peninsula. Testing is done on severed heads and is a lengthy process that includes soaking pieces of brain and lymph nodes in formaldehyde for five days. In 2019, Mason said, the DNR expects to test 45,000 deer at $120 apiece, a total of $5.4 million, “and those are dollars we cannot devote to other conservation activities.” Among the goals of the new grant program is to make the evaluations quicker, easier and cheaper. Straka noted that a University of Minnesota professor, Peter Larsen, is working on a test that wildlife officers could perform instantly with a hand-held device called a flow cell. “There are states working with universities,” she said. “We certainly hope they’ll be submitting proposals.” Roughly $2 million of the $4.7 million will target the science of the disease — things like early detection and the role of soil and water. Another $1.5 million will be devoted to applied research on such subjects as transmission pathways and predicting new infestations. About $700,000 will be devoted to outreach, Straka said, helping people realize the scope of the problem and how they can help solve it. The DNR warns against baiting and feeding, for instance, because it brings clusters of deer into contact with one another. For hunters who process a deer themselves, she said, “they might pitch the carcass out back. What can we do to make sure we aren’t making things worse?” The remaining $500,000 will encourage collaboration, “drawing on some of the expertise in other localities.” According to the state, only 119 free-ranging deer have been found with CWD out of 60,715 tested. But the danger lies in the unknown, Mason said, not the lab. “We don’t know how to stop this disease,” he said. “No one ever has.” New DNR grants target deer disease — before disease targets us

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Recovery of the Gray Wolf

The gray wolf, an iconic species of the American West, had all but disappeared from landscape in the lower 48 states by the early 20th century. Now it roams free in nine states and is stable and healthy throughout its current range. This constitutes one of the greatest comebacks for an animal in U.S. conservation history. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is re-affirming the success of this recovery with a proposal to remove all gray wolves from protection under Endangered Species Act (ESA). Continue reading

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Old Fears, New Hype Fuel CWD News

By Patrick Durkin, Green Bay Press Gazzette, Feb. 25, 2019

The frustrating uncertainties of chronic wasting disease
fired old fears for many folks the past two weeks after a Minnesota doctor
predicted CWD would probably soon jump from deer to humans. Continue reading

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