Bovine TB testing for wild deer

Posted on Oct 01 2016 in Outdoors
Deer photo

Photo by EEI_Tony/iStock /Getty Images Plus

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish & Wildlife has announced plans to establish management and surveillance zones in three east central Indiana counties in response to the recent finding of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in a wild white-tailed deer at a Franklin County cattle farm.

The plan designates a Bovine Tuberculosis Management Zone for the area south of State Road 44 in Fayette County and all of Franklin County. The area north of State Road 48 in Dearborn County will be a Surveillance Zone.

In the Surveillance Zone, the DNR’s goal is to collect samples from between 350 and 1,100 deer, depending on the sex and age of the animal. The emphasis will be on bucks that are 2-years-old or older. To meet this objective, the Surveillance Area will consist of periods of mandatory and voluntary check-in at biological check stations.

Mandatory check-in of hunter-harvested deer will be required at biological check stations from Nov. 4 through Nov. 27. Hunters must check their deer online ( within 12 hours of harvest to obtain a registration number, then bring the deer to the biological check station within the same 12-hour period after harvest.

Voluntary sample submission will be from Oct. 1-Nov. 3 and Dec. 3-11. Hunters who harvest a deer in the Surveillance Zone must check in their deer within 12 hours of harvest. They will receive a registration number and instructions on how to contact the DNR for participation in the bTB surveillance effort.

If enough samples are not collected through hunter-harvested deer to meet the surveillance objectives, DNR personnel and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services will be used to remove deer from the Surveillance Area (northern Dearborn County) in early 2017.

“We consider sharpshooting an undesirable option for surveillance, but it may be necessary if hunter participation in the surveillance effort is low,” said DNR deer management biologist Joe Caudell. “So, it’s critical that hunters participate to eliminate the need for sharpshooting, and it’s important that hunters encourage each other to participate.”

The focus in the Management Zone will be to reduce the wild deer population and potential spread of the disease. The DNR will use spotlight counts and other methods to establish baseline population size and density for the Management Zone. Additional deer will be removed from the bTB-affected cattle farm and surrounding areas as soon as possible.

Hunters who harvest a deer in the Management Zone must check-in their deer within 12 hours of harvest to receive a registration number. Submitting samples for bTB testing is voluntary and can be done at established drop-off or staffed locations, or by calling toll-free at 1-844-803-0002 to contact a DNR wildlife biologist to arrange a time and location for heads to be sampled.

From January until early April, landowner permits and sharpshooting may be used to reduce the number and density of deer in the Management Zone to lessen spread of the disease among wild white-tailed deer. Feeding deer and other mammalian wildlife will be banned in the Management Zone.

Hunters who harvest a buck that is 2-years-old or older from the Surveillance or Management areas and submit a sample for testing will qualify for an additional free buck tag that can be used to harvest a second buck from those areas. Participating hunters will be given a collectible Deer Cooperator Patch.

Bovine tuberculosis was identified in a single cow in November 2008. Soon after, the disease was detected in farmed deer in 2009 in a nearby Franklin County farm consisting of red deer, elk, and fallow deer. The disease was detected in 2011 in a Dearborn County cattle farm and in April of this year on a cattle operation with two sites in Franklin County.

From 2008-2015, the DNR, Indiana State Board of Animal Health, and U.S. Department of Agriculture tested more than 1,400 wild white-tailed deer from the area and all were found to be negative for bovine tuberculosis.

For more information on the DNR’s plan, visit

For more information on bovine tuberculosis in Indiana, visit the Board of Animal Health’s website at

Source: Indiana DNR

Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email