GREENVILLE, Mich. -- It was standing room only at the Montcalm County Fairgrounds Wednesday night.
More than 400 people showed up for a town hall meeting about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This comes after the DNR's announcement that a second deer in that area is suspected of having it.
The DNR has put specific regulations in place where nine townships will have mandatory deer checks across Montcalm and Kent Counties: Maple Valley, Pine, Douglass, Montcalm, Sidney, Eureka and Fairplan Townships in Montcalm County and Spencer and Oakfield Townships in Kent County will require checks. The mandatory checks start Nov. 15. A ban on baiting begins Jan. 2, 2018.
"One deer is a big deal because you go from zero. Zero is no problem. One deer, we've got it. Two deer; another big step because we really haven't tested that many deer in this area," said Michigan DNR Wildlife Biologist John Niewoonder.
Niewoonder says two may not seem like a lot, but with the low number of deer being tested, it could be representative of a larger problem.
There are still many unknowns about CWD, so the DNR says they're being extra cautious. CWD is contagious and causes degeneration of the brain. It's similar to Mad Cow Disease, but there are no known cases in humans. CWD affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It's caused my the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins called prions, which can be found in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals.
"This is a big deal," Niewoonder said. "This is a hunter community. We have a lot of deer, a lot of deer hunters, we have a strong deer hunting tradition and people are concerned about it. It's a disease slowly over time could reduce the deer population. And health concerns, human health concerns are there. We don't think humans can get it, no human has ever got it. You never know."
The first deer with CWD was found in mid-September during the youth hunt. The second was harvested 10 days ago.
The DNR led a presentation Wednesday evening before more than an hour of questions and answers. Many hunters were asking what they can do to help.
"It's here," said Bill Bird, member of the Red Creek Co-op. "We know it's here so we need to know what we can do to help the DNR and try to control this disease. It's not going to go away so get have to try and control it."
Many questions centered around the human consumption of deer infected with CWD. The DNR cited an ongoing study at the University of Calgary. The Center for Disease Control has said humans should not knowingly eat CWD-infected meat and hunters should get their meat tested.
The DNR says they need help from hunters if they are going to make a difference. They ask hunters to keep an eye out for any deer that look sick or emaciated, are drooling, or are walking in circles. Infected deer also may allow humans to approach them. If you see a deer you suspect has CWD, contact your local DNR office.
Click here for more information on CWD from the DNR's website.