Michigan Researchers Using GPS Tracking to Study Wasting Disease in Deer

20 Nov 2018

Researchers from Michigan State University have joined forces with the state’s Department of Natural Resources to conduct an ongoing study on the state’s population of deer. The project is being conducted around the Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Center and MSU’s Boone areas.

Researchers hope to learn more about the 1.75 million white-tailed deer that live in Michigan. They want to learn more about chronic wasting disease and how the disease spreads.

According to expert analysis, about 16 percent of the deer in Michigan suffer from this condition. The researchers have decided to help curb the spread of this disease by studying how deer in the state move around. Researchers are utilizing precautions when dealing with the deer and testing each animal for the disease.

Last winter, 57 deer were fitted with GPS tracking collars. Each collar has a two-year battery, and it’s designed to provide detailed information about each deer’s movements to the research team every 30 minutes. Every 150 minutes, the locations are uploaded onto the researcher’s computers via satellite. The team hopes to tag at least 50 more deer with a GPS tracking device over the winter. The data gathered from this project will be used to guide state wildlife policies.

Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease that causes the degeneration of the animal’s brain. It is extremely contagious to other deer, and the disease spreads through contact with deer saliva, urine or feces. The disease can spread rapidly in areas where deer concentrate.

There hasn’t yet been any evidence to suggest that the condition could be transmitted to humans. Despite this, wildlife officials continue to advise extreme caution regarding the disease.

They recommend that hunters use precautions when handling deer, and to never hunt deer that appear to be sick or acting abnormally. Experts suggest boning out the meat and avoiding contact with the animal’s brain, eyes, spinal cord tissues and spleen. It’s important to have your deer tested before attempting to consume the meat. Most experts warn against eating meat that is found to be infected.

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