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Redeye
09-05-2008, 08:04 PM
From the Grand Rapids Press

Chronic wasting disease incident a mystery to state, deer farmer who went 'by the book'

Posted by destep September 05, 2008 10:52AM

The uproar over the first detected case of wasting disease in Michigan continues as the state Department of Natural Resources tries to determine whether other deer are infected.

ALGOMA TOWNSHIP -- Jim Schuiteman hand-raised and bottle-fed his babies, carefully tending to his 52-head deer farm for four years, all the while following state protocol to keep the animals disease free.

Less than two weeks after one of his 3-year-old does tested positive for chronic wasting disease -- and results for 51 others came back clear this week -- Schuiteman questions how the fatal neurological ailment hit the one animal.

"I'm hoping to find out, like everyone else," Schuiteman said Thursday. "It's still a very emotional situation. We did everything by the book."

The uproar over the first detected case of wasting disease in Michigan continues as the state Department of Natural Resources tries to determine whether other deer are infected and considers lifting a quarantine that effectively shut down the state's 559 deer-breeding operations.

A related state order -- over the objection of hunters -- also bans bait piles, trying to limit the possible spread of CWD through wild deer.
Press Photo/Dave RaczkowskiKelly Powell tags an apparently healthy buck he shot Thursday evening on his Courtland Township property. Powell, a deer breeder, has five disease-control deer permits issued by the state. The deer's head will be tested by the state.

The burden of those moves and the potential impact on the fall hunting season is unfairly falling on Schuiteman, according to Kelly Powell, a deer breeder and the owner of Grizzly Flats Farm in Courtland Township.

'He's a victim of this'

"The whole state and some of the nation are staring down at him, and he did everything right," Powell said. "To me, he's a victim of this, not the cause of it, and he's been through a lot. He ran a good, clean operation.

"I think what we're seeing is a unique flare-up and, possibly, that it's not as highly contagious a disease that it's played out to be."

A meeting is set for Tuesday in Rockford to answer questions about the disease.

Powell said Schuiteman put down the sick deer and sent its head to the state as required.

"It's because of him that this was discovered," said Dan Spoelman, a partner of Powell.

Schuiteman declined to comment further, saying the investigation is ongoing, but said he remains upset over the loss of his animals, all of which had to be destroyed.

It is unclear whether there will be restrictions on Schuiteman's property.

State officials have said that once CWD is found, that land cannot be used again to house deer.

The state is waiting for test results from four deer taken from farms in Osceola and Montcalm counties. Those facilities received deer from Schuiteman.
Special permits are being issued to allow deer hunting in nine Kent County townships. The deer must be taken to wildlife officials to check for chronic wasting disease.

The DNR also issued about 50 disease-control kill permits for hunters and farmers to cull deer from Kent County's "hot zone," made up of Algoma, Tyrone, Solon, Nelson, Sparta, Courtland, Alpine, Plainfield and Cannon townships.

Through the permits, which are still available, and an early hunting season that runs from Sept. 18 to Sept. 22, the state needs to test 300 deer as part of its response to the disease's detection. All deer killed in the affected townships must be examined by state wildlife officials.

"We need to gather these deer as soon as possible," said Mary Detloff, a natural resources spokeswoman.

On Thursday night, Powell, Dan Spoelman and his son, Tim Spoelman, pushed three wild deer from woods on Powell's property along 14 Mile Road, near Berrigan Avenue, shooting one spike-horn buck. A doe and a fawn ran away from the gunfire.

The 130-pound, 1 1/2-year-old male appeared free from the disease, the symptoms of which include emaciation, excessive drooling, diarrhea and sluggish behavior. The deer's head will be sent to state officials for testing.

The wasting disease is similar to Mad Cow disease in cattle.

Powell has five disease-control permits and intends to fill them all.

"We have to get a handle on it," Powell said. "It seems to just pop up in places, but the state has to go to the lengths to make sure it's not spreading."

E-mail Nate Reens: nreens@grpress.com
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