The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Little Girl's Point research part of CWD study

 

February 27, 2019

Submitted photo

RESEARCHERS GATHER data on a deer as part of study on Chronic Wasting Disease in the Upper Peninsula.

By RICHARD JENKINS

rjenkins@yourdailyglobe.com

Ironwood Township - Researchers visited Little Girl's Point in recent weeks, collecting data on the area's deer population as part of ongoing research into chronic wasting disease.

The work was part of a partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

"The primary goal of this study is to examine deer movements in relations to seasonal migration, juvenile dispersal, and breeding and exploratory movements to better understand the potential risk of Chronic Wasting Disease entering and spreading across Michigan's Upper Peninsula," said Tyler Petroelje, a researcher who works with the project.

CWD is a fatal brain disease affecting deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no known cure once animals are infected, and symptoms include weight loss, stumbling, drooling and aggression.

There are no reported cases of humans being infected with CWD.

The disease has been present in Wisconsin since 2002, and the first U.P. case was reported in Dickinson County in October.

"It is important to to gather information on how deer move across the U.P. before the disease becomes established which can help managers decided where to focus resources and management actions to stop or slow the disease," Petroelje said.

Researchers captured deer in box traps loaded with bait, according to Petroelje, allowing them to be examined during a brief work-up. The researchers are targeting both adult and fawns as well as both male and female deer.

Each deer was handled for between 8 and 15 minutes, Petroelje said.

"During this time we collect ... measurements about each deer's body size, ... estimate body condition, collect a hair sample, administer an antibiotic and apply ear tags and a GPS collar," he said.

The GPS collars send back information, allowing researchers to track the animal's movements or find it if it died.

Little Girl's Point was one of several wintering locations in the Western U.P. researchers worked at; with deer also captured around Lake Gogebic, the East Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River, west Iron County and Dickinson County.

"This study started in January 2018 and we hope to continue it across the U.P. to best prepare for CWD," Petroelje said. "We have already seen long-distance movements from deer within each of the wintering complexes studied, ranging from 15 to over 50 miles between summer and winter range. (with) some of these crossing the Michigan-Wisconsin border."

There has also been some evidence of deer also moving between management units, which Petroelje said may mean these boundaries aren't the best to focus management efforts in.

A total of 155 deer have been captured, according to Petroelje, and researchers have collared 87 of those animals.

Along with the capture program, he said researchers are conducting a camera survey to estimate the density of deer populations, with over 250,000 images collected this past summer.

More information on the study can be found at campfirewildlife.com/projects/deer-movement or facebook.com/campfirewildlife.

 
 

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