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Bovine Tuberculosis Surveillance

The deer tested from the nine-township area that were harvested during the 2019 hunting season have all received a negative test result for bovine TB. To date, bovine TB has not been identified in wild, free-ranging animals in Wisconsin.

Nine-day Gun Season requested testing area

Requested testing of harvested white-tailed deer for bovine TB during the nine-day gun deer season was in effect in nine townships of Dane and Columbia counties through 2020. These include the Dane County townships of Dane, Vienna, Windsor, Springfield, Westport and Burke and the Columbia County townships of Lodi, Arlington and Leeds.

Bovine TB Surveillance Area
 

How to have your deer tested for bovine TB

Bovine TB sampling will be available at four self-service kiosks 24/7 throughout the nine-day gun deer season:

  1. Lodi Highway Department kiosk | 230 Water St., Lodi 53555
  2. State Game Farm | N3344 Stebbins Rd., Poynette 53955
  3. Rex Inkeeper parking lot | 301 N. Century Ave., Waunakee 53597
  4. Black Earth Sampling Station | 4742 Hwy. 78, Black Earth 53515

To test deer for bovine TB, the DNR must remove tissues from the deer's head. To submit their deer for testing, hunters should:

  • Bring their deer to one of the four self-service TB sampling kiosks.
    • The deer's head should have at least three inches of neck tissue attached.
    • Keep the head cool but do not freeze it if possible, as the freeze-thaw cycle can damage tissue needed for testing.
    • Taxidermy interests can be accommodated. To do so, hunters should submit caped-out deer heads and follow the general instructions at the kiosks within 24 hours of harvest.
    • Kiosks include a saw to help with head removal.
  • Fill out the appropriate paperwork provided at the kiosk.
    • Test results will be returned to the email or mailing address provided by the hunter.
  • Use a provided plastic bag to deposit the head and paperwork in the kiosk.

For more information on bovine TB, read our Bovine TB FAQ below.

About bovine TB

This focused surveillance effort follows the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP) Oct. 30, 2018 report that one cow from a Waunakee-area dairy tested positive for bovine TB [exit DNR]. To safeguard against the possible spread of bovine TB, the DNR has worked closely with our partners at DATCP, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop surveillance plans that will assess the possibility of wildlife exposure.

Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is a respiratory infection, primarily of cattle. It does not spread easily, but it is possible for humans as well as deer and other wildlife to contract bovine TB.

Bovine TB most commonly spreads to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized milk products from infected animals or through close contact with infected animals or people.

Bovine TB can spread to deer and other wildlife that come into close contact with infected cattle. Due to a 2018 confirmation of bovine TB in a Dane County dairy farm, the department will be testing wild white-tailed deer for the disease.

To date, bovine TB has not been identified in wild, free-ranging animals in Wisconsin.

Bovine TB FAQ

Disease information

What is bovine TB?

Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is a bacterial respiratory infection that is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). M. bovis usually originates in cattle, but the bacteria can infect most mammals including white-tailed deer and humans. It often affects the respiratory system and lymph nodes in a clinically affected animal.

Bovine TB does not spread easily. It is a chronic, slowly progressing disease, which means it can take months or years to worsen, grow or spread.

Bovine TB is most commonly spread to humans through consuming unpasteurized milk or milk products from infected animals, and close contact with infected animals or people. Also, infected people can be a source of infection to animals. More information about bovine TB in humans [exit DNR] is on the Centers for Disease Control website.

How do deer get bovine TB?

Bovine tuberculosis is most commonly spread between animals through nasal secretions. This can occur through close nose-to-nose contact, coughing and sneezing in close contact and sharing contaminated feed.

What does a deer with bovine TB look like?

Most deer with bovine TB has no visible signs of illness. The disease progresses very slowly and in later stages, deer may show signs of respiratory illness, such as coughing, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing and may look thin or emaciated. Bovine TB causes lesion most commonly found in lymph nodes of the head in harvested deer but may also appear as tan or yellow lumps (small abscesses) on the inside surface of the rib cage and/or the lungs. Very rarely, abscesses may be identified in other organs.

Bovine TB surveillance and testing

What is the DNR doing to monitor for TB in Wisconsin deer?

Since 2002, all lymph node samples collected from deer for CWD testing are routinely visually inspected to screen for signs of bovine TB infection. Any abnormal lymph nodes are submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) to culture and test for bovine TB. To date, no free-ranging deer in Wisconsin have been found to have bovine TB. 2020 is the third year of enhanced surveillance of the deer herd surrounding the dairy farm where bovine TB was detected. No bovine TB was detected in samples submitted from deer harvested in 2018 or 2019.

Why is the DNR requesting that some deer be tested for TB this year?

The DNR is requesting deer in nine townships in Dane and Columbia counties to be tested for bovine TB this year due to the detection of bovine TB in a Waunakee-area dairy cow in 2018. The DNR is testing deer surrounding this farm to detect if deer in the area were infected. If a positive deer is found, it is imperative to determine quickly if more deer are infected and develop a response to ensure that bovine TB does not establish itself in free-ranging deer in Wisconsin.

What are the nine townships in this surveillance area?

The townships of Lodi, Arlington, Leeds, Dane, Vienna, Windsor, Springfield, Westport and Burke are included in this area.

How long will it take to get TB results?

The bacteria are extremely slow-growing and initial tests may take up to two months. Samples will be submitted after the end of the nine-day gun season, so results should not be expected before the first part of February. Surveillance samples from lymph nodes appearing normal and animals without any suspect lesions in organs will be submitted for culture to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL). Any animals that have suspect lesions consistent with bovine TB will have additional tests run in conjunction with the culture. If any follow-up cultures are required, that may take additional time.

How will hunters be notified of TB results of their harvested deer?

Hunters will be sent an email with the results of their deer. If an email address was not provided, the hunter will receive a letter by US mail.

What should a hunter do if he/she thinks their deer has TB?

If a hunter finds unusual lesions or abscesses in the internal organs of their harvested deer, especially in the lungs or chest cavity, they should contact their local DNR Wildlife Biologist. From this page, select the “Staff Directory” and enter “wildlife biologist” into the subject line and select your county. Do not discard any part of the deer; the entire carcass may be required for testing.

Can hunters get their harvested deer tested for TB even if it looks normal?

All deer harvested within the nine townships surrounding the affected dairy farm are requested to be tested for bovine TB regardless of whether the deer looked sick. Testing for bovine TB outside of the surveillance area will follow the DNR’s usual surveillance techniques, which includes visual screening of lymph nodes during CWD surveillance and submission of samples from deer with TB suspect lesions on the inside surface of the rib cage and/or in the lungs.

Will I get a replacement tag if a deer I harvested is collected for bovine TB testing due to lesions?

Hunters will be issued a replacement tag if the deer they harvest is collected for bovine TB testing due to suspect lesions.

Human health information

Can people get TB from a deer?

It is very unlikely that a person will get bovine TB from a deer, but hunters should follow the usual precaution to wear gloves when field dressing or processing deer. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection provides guidelines for safe venison handling, and the Department of Health Services provides more information on TB in people (see “More Information” at right).

Bovine TB is most commonly spread to humans through consuming unpasteurized milk or milk products from infected animals, and close contact with infected animals or people. Also, infected people can be a source of infection to animals. More information about bovine TB in humans [exit DNR] is on the Centers for Disease Control website.

Is it OK to eat venison from deer with TB?

People should not consume or feed to any other animals or livestock any animal that appears to be sick. When consuming apparently healthy animals, following recommended cooking temperatures as heat kills the bacteria that cause bovine TB.

What precautions should hunters take when field dressing a deer?

Hunters should wear gloves when field dressing a deer. They should be observant for abscesses in the organs, especially on the inside surface of the rib cage and/or in the lungs.

Management Information

Can TB in deer be treated?

There are no vaccines to prevent bovine TB in deer nor are there any methods for effectively treating infected free-ranging deer. Early detection of bovine TB in deer and herd management are the only effective tools for keeping bovine TB out of Wisconsin deer.

What will be done if bovine TB is detected in the deer herd within the surveillance area?

Should bovine TB be identified in a deer, sampling protocols will change from detection to determining the distribution and prevalence of the disease. Response recommendations will vary dependent on the extent of the disease’s presence.