State biologists with the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife plan to test for the presence of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in deer in southeastern Indiana this hunting season using a redesigned set of sampling protocols.
The new protocols are aimed at detecting the disease at lower rates of prevalence by focusing on hunter-harvested bucks that are at least 2 years old.
"While any age and sex of white-tailed deer can become infected with bovine tuberculosis, surveillance from other states has demonstrated that sampling bucks older than 2 years of age is more likely to detect the disease," said Joe Caudell, DNR state deer biologist.
Sampling of harvested deer this year will take place in all of Franklin County and in Fayette County south of State Road 44. In April of this year, the Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture detected bovine TB on a cattle farm in Franklin County.
Previously, bovine tuberculosis was detected in farmed deer and cattle in late 2008 and 2009 in Franklin County and on a Dearborn County cattle farm in 2011. As a result, DNR began a surveillance program in 2009 to determine if the disease had spilled into the wild white-tailed deer population.
From 2008-2015, biologists tested more than 1,400 deer. All have tested negative for bovine tuberculosis.
The DNR this year will need to collect between 850 and 2,700 samples from wild white-tailed deer depending on the sex and age class of the animal. The objective is to sample as many bucks older than 2 years as possible. The remaining samples will come from does and younger bucks.
During the check-in process, hunters will be asked to participate in testing by calling a toll-free number that will be available when they register a deer online. A team based in Franklin County will be on call to meet hunters and sample their deer.
Samples must come from the head and neck, so these parts should be preserved if deer are processed in the field. Hunters that wish to have their deer mounted or processed can provide the name of the taxidermist or processor so arrangements can be made to collect the samples from that location.
During the youth weekend, Sept. 24-25, and the firearm season's opening weekend, Nov. 12-13, DNR staff will be at some historic check stations and other locations in Franklin and Fayette County. A list of these locations will be available when hunters register their deer online.
A collectable Deer Cooperator Patch will be issued to all youth and adult hunters who submit deer for bovine tuberculosis surveillance.
Hunters who harvest a buck that is 2 years old or older from the TB sampling area and allow a sample to be collected (either by DNR staff, taxidermist, or at a processor) will qualify for an additional free buck tag that can be used to harvest a second buck that is at least 2 years old from the bovine tuberculosis surveillance area.
A buck older than 2 years old can typically be estimated in the field by the spread of the antlers and the number of antler points. The age will be confirmed by tooth wear replacement by a biologist.
For the latest information about bovine tuberculosis, visit boah.IN.gov or wildlife.IN.gov/5466.htm.
To view all DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.
Media contact: Joe Caudell, state deer biologist, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, (812) 334-1137, jcaudell@dnr.IN.gov.