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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

CWD is a serious neurologic disease affecting elk, white-tailed and mule deer. Although it has been associated with captive deer and elk in the past, CWD has more recently been found in free-ranging white-tailed deer in the Midwest. This disease has been a serious concern for a number of western and plains states for the last several years and has now been found in free-ranging white-tailed deer in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Although the methods of transmission are not completely known, evidence suggests that infected animals may transmit the disease by animal-to-animal contact or by environmental contamination. CWD is always fatal to the infected animal and there is only a limited diagnostic test available to detect CWD in live animals.

Human Health
While CWD is related to other well-known diseases, such as scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, public health officials have not found any evidence that CWD in deer or elk can be transmitted to humans. For more info on precautions for hunters click here.

Farm-raised Deer
Beginning Oct. 27, 2003, farmed-cervid owners will have the opportunity to import into Indiana cervidae that meet specific health requirements, under an importation permit issued by the office of the Indiana State Veterinarian.

The specific criteria for importation was adopted by members of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, during their July meeting, following a public hearing and comment period.

A summary of the key criteria for cervid importation can be viewed on line by clicking here. The full text of Indiana's importation laws may be found at 345 IAC 1-3.

For more information
If you have any questions regarding CWD or other deer diseases, you can contact the Indiana Board of Animal Health at 1-877-747-3038 (toll free) or the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife at (317) 232-4080.

No reports in Indiana
CWD has not been reported in Indiana. To guard against the possible occurrence and spread of CWD, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are working to prevent the importation of diseased animals into Indiana and to monitor wild deer and captive deer and elk for any signs of the disease.

Biologists collect samples
DNR biologists and state animal health officials staffed deer hunting check stations on opening weekend of firearms season to test deer for disease. The 5,400+ deer tissue samples tested did not show any signs of CWD. This deer season, biologists will continue to focus sample collection in northwest Indiana (due to confirmed cases of CWD in northern Illinois) and around deer farms.

FAQ

Can people get chronic wasting disease from deer?
There is no known connection between CWD in deer and any diseases in humans. And CWD is not known to be present in Indiana. For information on maximum precautions that you can take, click here.

I provided a sample of my deer for testing. When will I hear results?
If the deer you have harvested tests positive for CWD, you will be notified by mail. If your deer does not test positive for CWD, you will NOT be notified, though you can get updates on the monitoring program here. No samples that were collected in 2002 or 2003 showed signs of the disease.

Sign up for Wild Bulletin to get updates on CWD testing via email.

Should I wait to eat the deer until I get test results?

This is a personal choice. There is no known connection between CWD in deer and any diseases in humans. The CWD sampling that we are conducting is not a meat safety test. It is a check on the health status of our deer herd. Test results may not be available while the meat is at it's best. Get updates on test results at deerhealth.IN.gov.

What is the State of Indiana doing about CWD?
DNR biologists and BOAH veterinarians will continue active CWD surveillance programs.

Where can hunters have deer tested?
Biologists will man deer check stations during peak periods of the firearms deer hunting season. They will ask hunters to voluntarily donate samples of deer for testing. Biologists won’t be able to sample every deer. They will be actively seeking deer from counties in northwest Indiana and at scattered other locations across the state to get a statistically accurate sample.

Am I required to turn over a sample of my deer?
No. Participation in the CWD monitoring program is optional.

How can I tell if the deer I harvested has CWD?
There is no way to tell if a deer is infected with CWD by appearance. DNR officials recommend that hunters not process or consume any deer that is obviously ill or emaciated. Click here for precautions.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Monitoring by DNR and BOAH
Due to the spread of tuberculosis in deer in northeastern Michigan, the Indiana DNR and Board of Animal Health are monitoring Indiana’s deer herd for signs of the disease. There have been no deer that have tested positive for TB in Indiana. You can help with this effort to protect Indiana’s domestic and wild animal populations by helping to verify that Hoosier deer continue to be disease-free.

Inspect your deer!

While field dressing your deer, look for white or red- blister-like sores (lesions) on internal organs or inside of the carcass. In the unlikely event you see lesions, exercise caution in handling the animal.

Do not proceed with further processing until the carcass is examined by a State Board of Animal Health veterinarian. Refrigerate (or ice down) the carcass if possible.

Keep the animal, including the head, intact until examined. To contact a veterinarian, call 1-877-747-3038 (toll free). This number is answered Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Messages left on weekends or holidays will be returned as soon as possible. A veterinarian will advise you, free-of-charge, about the appropriate use of the animal and may collect tissue samples for further testing.

By reporting any suspicious lesion, you are helping to protect the health status of Indiana’s white-tailed deer resource.

If you submit your deer for further testing, the DNR will replace your permanent/temporary deer tag to allow revalidation of your existing license.

Be safe - wash your hands!

After field dressing or handling any carcass or other raw meat, wash your hands with soap and water. Hand washing removes disease-causing bacteria, including tuberculosis. This practice should always be followed, even if the animal appears healthy.

For more information
For more information on Indiana's deer TB monitoring program, contact the Board of Animal Health:

Board of Animal Health
4154 N. Keystone Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46205

Phone: (317) 544-2400
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

E-mail: animalhealth@boah.IN.gov

Lead Bullet Fragmentation Information

Overview:

Fragmenting by lead bullets has been a hot topic in recent years following research out of North Dakota and Minnesota that found lead bullet fragments in deer meat at food pantries. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a follow up study confirming a link between lead levels and wild game consumption. Lead is a toxic substance, and exposure may pose health risks to hunters and their families, especially children and pregnant women.

Previous research has focused on ammunition from high-velocity center fire rifles, which are prohibited for deer hunting in Indiana. The Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) recently conducted a study on whether fragmentation was a concern for deer hunters given their most popular ammunition choices: rifled slugs, sabot slugs, and conical in-line muzzleloader bullet.

Results:

The DFW found evidence of fragmentation in each of the 43 deer sampled. The muzzleloader bullets had the most fragments and the greatest average distance traveled by fragments from the exit wound. The average distance a fragment traveled was typically between 1 and 2 ½ inches, though the furthest traveled just over 8 inches from the exit wound. Simply gutting the deer often removed 45-57% of the total fragments.

Recommendations:

  • Fragmenting in shotgun and in-line muzzleloader ammunition exists but is minimal. The DFW does not see a need to ban lead ammunition for deer hunting.
  • Fragments were greatest when bullets struck a front shoulder vs. a vital shot (heart/lungs). Fragmentation can extend to both shoulders in the case of a shoulder shot.
  • Non-toxic alternatives are available, and the DFW encourages hunters to consider using one of these substitutes if lead exposure is a concern for your family.
  • Hunters should consider liberally trimming their meat (at least 2 inches from both the entrance and exit wounds and possibly up to 8 inches from the exit wound) if lead exposure is a concern, or consider sacrificing the shoulder meat if the shoulder is struck.