State's white-tailed deer test negative for TB, chronic wasting disease

State's white-tailed deer test negative for TB, chronic wasting disease

July 3, 2001 Wisconsin Department of Natural Rresources News & 
Outdoor Report edited by Paul Holtan
MADISON -- All 400 of the wild white-tailed deer sampled during the Fall 2000 hunting season tested negative for both Bovine Tuberculosis and Chronic Wasting disease, as well as several other important deer pathogens, according to state wildlife health specialists. However, 8 percent of the deer did test positive for Leptospira, a water-borne bacteria affecting mammals.

Samples were collected from deer that hunters brought into registration stations in 16 Deer Management Units during the opening weekend of gun deer season. All hunters who participated in the testing program during the fall 2000 season have received the test results.

There is little evidence that Leptospira infections have a significant impact on the health of deer, according to a report by Department of Natural Resources wildlife veterinarians. Researchers have also not been able to document that wild deer play a substantial role in transmitting the disease to cattle.

Although deer are tested for a variety of diseases, state wildlife specia lists are primarily concerned that Bovine TB or Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) could potentially spread into Wisconsin's wild, free-ranging deer, said Julie Langenberg, a DNR wildlife veterinarian.

"Recent outbreaks of TB in Michigan and CWD in both Colorado and Wyoming have had devastating effects on deer health, as well as state hunting economies," Langenberg said. Other diseases that the health specialists test for are viral and bacterial diseases such as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, Bluetongue virus, Burcella abortus and Leptospira.

Langenberg said the goal for the 2001 hunting season is to test a minimum of 500 animals from representative and targeted areas of the state. This will be the third year that Wisconsin has tested deer shot by hunters for CWD. TB testing began in 1996 in response to the disease infecting elk farms in Manitowoc County. Between 1996 and 2000, state officials have sampled 1,400 deer for TB and 630 deer have been tested for CWD since 1999.

"We have tested a relatively small percentage of the approximately 1.7 million deer in Wisconsin," said Langenberg. "There is definitely a risk of undetected disease in the state, but we have not tested enough animals to spot it at a low level. We will continue to test deer annually to make sure we detect any emerging disease problems in the deer population. We would really like to test many more deer each year but we don't currently have the resources to do that."

Other states have implemented testing programs as well. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has performed Bovine TB testing on 1,952 hunter-harvested white-tailed deer during the 1999 fall hunting season. Also, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will be conducting a study involving the removal of brainstem tissue from hunter-harvested deer to test for CWD in the upcoming 2001-hunting season. The Michigan DNR has conducted extensive TB testing of white-tailed deer, following the 1994 discovery of Bovine TB in a white-tailed deer in northeastern Michigan. In an effort to control and eradicate the disease, Michigan has tested 65,000 wild, free ranging deer and has found 285 TB-positive deer between 1995 and June of 2001.

"Hunters, by and large, really care about having healthy deer in the state," Langenberg said. "There is usually high receptivity to the testing. We're really appreciative that hunters are so cooperative."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Julia Langenberg (608) 266-3143

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