Deer hunt numbers may be up

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Caleb Eckloff, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife technician based out of Marquette, prepares tissue samples from a donated deer head for chronic wasting disease testing at the DNR Escanaba Customer Service Center Wednesday.

ESCANABA — Michigan’s firearm deer season for 2018 officially ended Friday. Karen Sexton, a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Escanaba Customer Service Center, said this season seems to have been successful.

“The numbers look to be increased across the Upper Peninsula region,” she said.

In 2017, 434 deer had been checked at the Escanaba center’s deer check station by the eighth day of the firearm deer season. This year, 471 deer had been checked there at the same point in the season.

However, Sexton noted there is an “asterisk” by these numbers, as they may have been influenced by the recent discovery of a case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the U.P.

“With CWD, we know that there’s going to be interest in hunters checking their deer that may not have checked their deer previously,” she said. According to a DNR press release issued in mid-October, a doe killed in Dickinson County’s Waucedah Township on an agricultural farm about four miles from the Michigan-Wisconsin border tested positive for CWD.

The DNR has asked U.P. hunters to donate the heads of deer they have harvested for disease testing. Sexton said the Escanaba center has been receiving test results from the DNR’s diagnostic lab staff in Lansing on a regular basis.

“No additional positives (were) found in the U.P. region at this point,” she said.

In the DNR’s core CWD surveillance area (which consists of approximately 10 square miles in southern Dickinson County and Menominee County), a total of 456 deer heads had been submitted for testing as of last week. The DNR’s testing goal for this area is 600 deer heads.

In the department’s expanded CWD surveillance area (which surrounds the core CWD surveillance area), 418 deer heads had been submitted for testing. The DNR’s goal for this area was 300 heads.

“We certainly, this season, have experienced a lot of cooperation from our hunters,” Sexton said.

Sexton said the DNR will continue to accept deer heads for testing through the end of the year. She added while Michigan’s 2018 firearm deer season has concluded, deer hunting in Michigan this year has not.

“We still have a couple of additional seasons,” she said. These include archery and muzzleloading seasons. Additionally, hunters with disease control permits will be able to hunt through Jan. 1, 2019.

According to Sexton, the Escanaba center’s wildlife staff has also been able to share important information related to CWD with area hunters at the center’s deer check station.

“We’ve had a lot of valuable conversations,” she said.

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