Managing bovine TB in wild deer

DNR staff take tissue samples for bovine TB testingMinnesota has taken aggressive action to eradicate bovine TB from the state's livestock and wildlife. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of state and federal agencies, cattle producers, hunters and landowners, the prevalence of bovine TB remains low and is confined to a relatively small geographical area.

No deer tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB) in 2010, but surveillance efforts will continue in northwestern Minnesota when the firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 5.

"We are encouraged by last year's test results," said Michelle Carstensen, wildlife health program director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "If this fall's testing efforts do not detect any more positive deer, that will build confidence that TB has been eliminated or is at an undetectable level."

It remains vitally important to continue to obtain enough samples to draw conclusions about the level of the disease in deer. Future deer management will be based upon ongoing assessments until bovine TB is eliminated.

This fall's surveillance goal is to collect 500 samples for testing, Carstensen said. At least 200 of those samples should originate from within the core area of the disease management zone, a 164-square-mile area centered around Skime.

  • History
  • Surveillance & Eradication
  • Hunter Assistance

Since 2005, bovine tuberculosis (TB) – a progressive and chronic bacterial disease that primarily affects cattle, but also wildlife – has been found in 12 cattle operations and 27 free-ranging deer in northwestern Minnesota.

To date, all infected deer have been animals born during or before 2005 and taken within a 10-mile radius of the first confirmed positive cattle herd.

The most-recent case occurred in fall 2009 from a hunter harvested deer. As a result, DNR expanded the area where sharpshooters took samples earlier this year. Tests were negative for all 450 wild deer removed as part of that effort.

Bovine TB is a serious concern, not only because of the obvious harmful effects on animal health, but also due to the negative impacts to livestock producers, landowners, residents, hunters and businesses.

The disease already has cost the state and industry millions of dollars. If not eradicated, the disease could become endemic, increasing the associated costs exponentially.

Minnesota's Board of Animal Health has additional information about what it and other partner agencies are doing to help eradicate bovine.

There are currently no effective vaccines or medications for bovine TB in animals. The most effective method of disease control is eradication of infected animals. For this reason, all infected cattle herds have been depopulated.

Bagging a tissue sample for bovine TB testing In the case of wildlife, it is unrealistic to try to eliminate every wild deer or prevent deer from repopulating the affected area. Instead, the goal is to temporarily reduce the deer population in the area, thereby decreasing the likelihood of deer-to-deer contact and disease transmission, and eliminating infected deer in the process.

Deer: Disease surveillance in deer is ongoing and has been conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since 2005. The DNR also has employed a number of deer reduction strategies in and around the TB Management Zone, including liberalized and special hunting seasons, landowner/tenant deer shooting permits and contracted sharpshooting.

Elk: The DNR also has surveyed and tested elk from the herd that is in the vicinity of the TB Management Zone, as well as the herd in Kittson County. To date, no elk have been found with the disease.

Hunter registering a harvested deer at a bovine TB check stationHunter participation in the DNR's sampling program in Deer Permit Area 101 is vitally important. Let us take a few minutes to remove samples from deer harvested there. It's a quick process and provides valuable information about the status of this disease and distribution in local deer populations.

Take your deer to the DNR Forestry Station in Wannaska or a deer registration station within deer area 101. You'll receive a DNR Cooperator patch and be entered into a firearms raffle sponsored by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. Check stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from Nov. 5 to Sunday, Nov. 20.

Your assistance during the deer seasons is vital to help reduce or eliminate the need for additional sharpshooting in 2012.

Permit Area 101 Registration Stations
Location Address Town
Olson's Skime Store 16945 Hwy 89 Skime
D&G Pro Station 47903 Cty Rd. 4 Hayes Lake
Wannaska Forestry Station 16945 Hwy 89 Wannaska
Grygla Sporting Goods 102 Main Ave N Grygla
Fourtown Store 63063 Fourtown Rd. NW Fourtown
Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area (TLWMA) 42280 240th Ave NE Middle River