Threat to state’s deer herd continues

Our natural resources are Michigan’s greatest assets, thus we need to protect and preserve them at all costs.

Michigan always has enjoyed a great national reputation as being one of the country’s true “hot spots” for whitetail deer hunting but today, that reputation is in danger of being tainted, if not entirely lost all together. Out of control diseases for which eradication seems impossible are threatening our state’s deer population.

All of us are familiar with the bovine tuberculosis predicament in our region. Department of Natural Resources officials have worked diligently since the ’90s to eradicate the problem. Since then there have been peaks and valleys with their success rates, but ultimately the disease persists. Local hunters have learned to adjust to the problem but there is no doubt the disease has adversely impacted the once booming tourist industry to the region.

The newest problem DNR officials face is the prevalence of chronic wasting disease found in deer across state in central and western Michigan. This year alone DNR officials confirmed 30 new cases in those regions.

These problems have not gone unnoticed. Erik Schnelle, Michigan state advisory council president for the Quality Deer Management Association, recently wrote to Michigan QDMA members that the state’s deer herd is getting out of balance, threatening the hunting experience for sportsmen. He called upon members of his organization to help address the threat from both diseases.

“We Michigan hunters are the most important part of the deer disease management equation,” he said. “We buy the licenses, we pull the trigger, and it is time for each of us to take immediate action.”

Specifically, Schnelle urged hunters to:

∫ Educate themselves about the diseases, and their there threat to the whitetail herd.

∫ Share the knowledge with fellow hunters and emphasize balance in the deer herd.

∫ Join or start a deer cooperative.

∫ Emphasize doe harvest.

∫ Pass on young bucks 1.5 years and younger. Let them mature and then find them next year.

∫ Enhance deer habitat to spread them over a larger geographical area rather than at one grazing point.

∫ Do not feed or bait in the disease management areas.

∫ Talk to legislators.

Schnelle said “Too many hunters are still choosing to shoot a yearling buck rather than taking a doe. High population densities, social and nutritional stress, and a much older doe segment of the herd has put the deer herd and our hunting heritage at risk.”

“Ensuring the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage has never been more important,” he said.

I agree. There is a role for every hunter in Michigan to play here. Area deer herds need to come more into balance.

For more specifics about the threat of cwd and bovine TB, contact the DNR. For more information on QDMA, and its legislative recommendations, turn to

Bill Speer can be reached via email at or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.