Audit of State's Captive Cervid Facilities Reveals|
37% Non-Compliance Rate; Need for Improvement
An audit of captive/privately owned cervid facilities that house deer, elk and other animals around the state showed that 37 percent of the facilities are not in compliance with current regulations for the industry. The audit, performed by Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Law Enforcement Divisions, also pointed out that current regulations are lax and need to be strengthened in order to assure free-ranging deer are not at risk for exposure to disease from privately owned cervid.
"This audit reveals there is no way for the DNR to conclude at this time whether or not chronic wasting disease (CWD) already is present in Michigan and propagating undetected in privately owned cervid facilities," said DNR Wildlife Division Chief William Moritz.
The audit was one of the recommendations called for by the CWD Task Force formed by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm in 2003. The audit was performed between June and October of 2004 at a total of 584 captive/privately owned cervid facilities. The main deficiencies noted in the audit involve animal identification, the rate of CWD testing, conditions of fences and the rate and reporting of escaped animals. Among the findings:
* There is no system of mandatory, uniform animal identification for captive/privately owned cervid that provides unique and visible identification of each individual by which the animal can be traced throughout its lifetime.
* There is a general lack of CWD testing of Michigan captive/privately owned cervid, despite a mandatory testing program for all captive/privately owned cervid over the age of 16 months that die.
* There is a lack of regulations regarding the decommissioning or de-registering of captive cervid facilities.
* Procedures to deal with facility abandonment are critically needed.
* The current record-keeping by facilities, while meeting current regulations, is inadequate in order to minimize disease risk. More modern, up-to-date record-keeping methods are needed.
* Escapes of captive cervid occur, but are rarely properly reported. Of the 464 animals reported escaped over a four-year period, only eight of those were properly reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
* There is a lack of uniform regulation for the composition and maintenance of perimeter fencing of captive cervid facilities.
* Ranch facilities enclose the largest number of CWD-susceptible captive/privately owned cervid, import the largest number of animals from out-of-state sources, had the largest percentage of animals lacking identification, had the lowest rate of CWD testing, and the lowest rate of recovery and identification of escapees. In addition, ranch facilities are located in areas with some of the highest free-ranging white-tailed deer densities in the state.
* There needs to be more research and development of regulation for the disposal of manure and carcasses from captive cervid facilities.
"The audit provided a snapshot of the industry, and the low level of regulatory measures in place definitely needs to be strengthened if we are going to protect our free-ranging wildlife from contracting this deadly disease," Moritz said. "The majority of facilities have completed necessary corrections, but continued monitoring will be needed."
The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural resources for current and future generations.