Testing indicates WI whitetail deer herd healthy.


Mar 11, 2001
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Testing indicates whitetail deer herd healthy.

Samples are negative for two critical diseases.

By TIM EISELE, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sept. 16, 2001.

Wisconsin's wild whitetail deer herd is healthy, if a limited sample of deer killed during last fall's gun deer hunt is representative.

The Department of Natural Resources tested 400 deer that hunters brought into registration stations and all tested negative for both bovine tuberculosis (TB) and chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Kerry Beheler, DNR wildlife health specialist for the Bureau of Wildlife Management said, however, that 8% of the deer tested positive for leptospira, a bacteria that affects mammal's kidneys.

"But, since it is a bacteria, if the meat is thoroughly cooked there should be no problem," she said.

Lymph node and tissue samples from the head and neck area were collected from deer at 16 Deer Management Units during the opening weekend of the 2000 gun deer season in an attempt to detect any disease in the deer herd.

The tests were conducted primarily out of concern for TB and CWD. Recent outbreaks of TB in Michigan, and CWD in Colorado and Wyoming have had devastating effects on deer health, as well as the state hunting economy, and agricultural and captive exotic livestock.

Contagious disease
TB is a contagious respiratory disease that can infect most warmblooded animals, including humans. CWD is a brain disease, related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which is also known as mad cow disease.

Wisconsin has tested some deer shot by hunters for TB since 1996, in response to concerns when TB infected elk farms in Manitowoc County.

Between 1996 and 2000, state officials have sampled 1,400 deer for TB, and since 1999 a total of 630 deer have been tested for CWD.

"We have tested a relatively small percentage of the approximately 1.7 million deer in Wisconsin," Beheler said. "There is always a risk of undetected diseases in such a large population. We would really like to test many more deer each year, but we don't currently have the resources to do that."

The 2000 testing also diagnosed 17 bucks with cranial abscessation syndrome. The syndrome is a brain abscess caused by bacteria that enter through a wound in the velvet of a buck's antlers, broken antler or other head wound. The bacteria actually eats through the skull, causing abscesses in the brain, and is found in bucks a year-and-a-half or older.

"We're seeing more of it, but that is also due to increased awareness by hunters and the fact that more older-aged bucks were harvested last year," Beheler said.

The infected bucks are primarily from western and southwestern counties, with a few from the northeastern counties.

Hunters who participated by allowing samples to be taken from their deer, received notification of the test results.

"The hunters are wonderful in cooperating and being interested in the project. We couldn't monitor the health of the herd without their interest and cooperation," Beheler said.

More samples
The DNR wants to sample at least 500 deer during the 2001 season. Most will be sampled during the opening weekend of the gun deer season.

Beheler said that if hunters have questions this fall, they should call the DNR wildlife health office at (608) 267-6751 or their local wildlife biologist or conservation warden.

Hunters should look for unusual symptoms, such as lameness, stumbling, or excessive salivation. If hunters don't notice anything unusual until field dressing the animal, they should contact the DNR.

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