The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University are once again seeking proposals for research that addresses priority concerns related to the management of chronic wasting disease in Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

In 2019, the Michigan Legislature, recognizing the threat that CWD poses to Michigan’s hunting traditions and local economies, provided $4.3 million in funds to support collaborative research, education and outreach activities related to the disease, and to fund CWD field surveillance. The MSU-DNR Chronic Wasting Disease Advisory Group issued a national call for proposals last April to seek projects to address the most important issues around CWD in Michigan deer. Eleven projects were selected for funding, with a number of these projects currently underway.

Now, with a portion of the $4.3 million remaining, the advisory group is again seeking research proposals.

Scott Whitcomb, DNR senior advisor for wildlife and public lands, said “Michigan continues to take aggressive steps to combat CWD while emerging as a national leader in testing, research and management. A coalition of dedicated partners – the Michigan Legislature, MSU, the DNR and so many more partners – have together appropriated significant funding, resources and personnel to research and fight this disease. Additional research as a result of these proposals will take these collaborative efforts even further.”

The proposals should address priorities such as:

-Clarification of transmission pathways.

-Evaluating and comparing management tools that impact disease spread.

-Environmental decontamination or remediation strategies.

-Evaluation of methods and technologies to remotely identify infected free-ranging deer.

“CWD is a deadly disease that threatens the white-tailed deer population in Michigan and has environmental persistence as well,” Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch, said. “We are pleased to be part of this collaborative initiative and look forward to making progress in meeting the greatest needs for CWD research and its implications on the state’s economy and protecting our natural resources.”

The proposals are due by 5 p.m. May 4 and will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee of subject matter experts of MSU faculty, DNR staff, external experts and stakeholder representatives. Notification of awards, including funding amount, will be made on June 1.

The request for proposals and details are available at CANR.MSU.edu/chronic-wasting-disease.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It causes a degeneration of the brain resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. CWD is fatal; once an animal is infected there is no recovery or cure.

It is caused by a normal protein, called a prion, that folds incorrectly and can infect other deer, elk and moose. It can be transmitted through direct animal to animal contact or by contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, carcass parts of an infected animal or infected soil. Prions are extremely resistant in the environment and can stay infectious for years. To date, there is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans.

Since May 2015, when the first free-ranging, CWD-positive deer was found in Michigan, the disease has been confirmed in white-tailed deer in the Lower Peninsula in eight counties. In 2018, a CWD-positive deer was found in the Upper Peninsula in Dickinson County.