Indiana officials are warning hunters to be aware of bovine tuberculosis in wild deer and to take precautions when field dressing animals.
The first case of wild bovine tuberculosis in the state was documented in August in a 2-year-old, white-tailed doe. Upon the discovery, other animals in the area were tested and the disease was also found in a raccoon.
People can contract bovine tuberculosis by consuming unpasteurized or raw milk and dairy products, by drinking from an animal watering source, from hand-to-mouth contact after handling contaminated meat or interacting with livestock, and by eating undercooked meat from an infected animal.
Indiana animal and agriculture officials have been working on containing the disease in cattle herds in the state and have designated part of Fayette County and all of Franklin County as a bovine tuberculosis management zone, according to the state Board of Animal Health (BOAH).
There is also a ban on feeding deer, not just baiting deer for hunting, and the state is having hunters check in online within 12 hours of bagging an animal. Testing of deer meat is voluntary, but must be done relatively quickly after slaughter, according to state wildlife officials.
State deer biologist Joe Caudell told the Batesville Herald-Tribune newspaper that there are only two ways to contain bovine tuberculosis in the deer population — remove infected animals and reduce the overall population to slow the spread of the infection.
To reduce the overall population, Indiana is encouraging more hunting by offering an extra buck tag to hunters who submit a buck that is at least 2-years-old for testing. The additional tag can only be used for another buck at least 2.5 years old taken in the management zone before Dec. 11.
Additional requirements and restrictions apply, with details available from the Board of Animal Health website. Wildlife officials need deer to sample for the disease to determine the percentage of infected animals.
Hunters should wear protective gloves and other gear when slaughtering wild animals and become familiar with signs of infection to look for, according to health and wildlife officials.
Forty percent of deer that tested positive for bovine TB had lesions recognizable as unusual by most hunters, Caudell told the newspaper. There can be a solitary or multiple lesions and the disease could be in just be one lymph node or spread throughout the body.
Infected animals in the deer family, known as cervids, may also have sores with runny, greenish yellow liquid.