Deer Disease Information
Indiana DNR and the Board of Animal Health (BOAH) are monitoring Indiana’s deer herd for bovine tuberculosis (TB) after detecting the disease at a captive cervid facility in Franklin County, cattle farms in Dearborn and Franklin counties, and in a wild white-tailed deer and two wild raccoons that were infected on cattle farms in Franklin County.
In 2017, with support from hunters, Indiana DNR tested approximately 500 deer from within the bovine TB surveillance zone. Microscopic diagnostic results were negative. Preliminary results suggest the prevalence of bovine TB in wild deer was very low in Franklin and Fayette counties, if it was present in the wild deer at all. More information about bovine TB testing during the hunting season is at wildlife.IN.gov/9320.htm
You can assist the effort to protect Indiana’s domestic and wild animal populations from bovine TB by inspecting your harvested deer. The following procedures provide guidance in the event you harvest a deer that you suspect might be diseased.
Inspect Your Deer
- While field dressing a deer, look for white, tan or red blister-like lesions on internal organs or inside of the carcass. Lesions may be found on the lungs, inside the rib cage, on the liver, on lymph nodes or occasionally on other organs inside the carcass.
- In the unlikely event you find lesions, discontinue processing until the carcass has been examined by an Indiana BOAH veterinarian. Refrigerate (or ice down) the carcass, if possible.
- Keep the animal, including the head, intact until examined.
To contact a BOAH veterinarian, call 877-747-3038 (toll free). This number is answered 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Messages left on weekends or holidays will be returned as soon as possible.
A BOAH veterinarian will advise, free of charge, about the appropriate use of the animal and may collect tissue samples for further testing. Reporting any suspicious lesion helps protect the health status of Indiana’s white-tailed deer population.
If a veterinarian asks a hunter to submit a deer for further testing, the DNR will replace the hunter’s deer tag and revalidate an existing license.
When field dressing or handling any carcass or other raw meat, consider wearing disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterward. Hand washing removes disease-causing bacteria, including bovine TB. It is wise to follow this practice even if the animal appears healthy.
For more information on Indiana’s deer bovine TB surveillance program, contact BOAH, toll free, at 877-747-3038, email
animalhealth@boah.IN.gov or see
boah.IN.gov, or mail a request to: Board of Animal Health, Discovery Hall, Suite 100 1202, East 38th St., Indianapolis, IN 46205-2898.
Chronic Wasting Disease and Out-of-State Deer, Elk and Moose
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease found in deer, elk and moose. CWD has been confirmed in approximately half of the states in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. It is spreading geographically, and prevalence in some areas is quite high, but it has not been confirmed in Indiana.
The disease is caused by a misfolded protein called a prion. Prions are shed from infected deer through secretions, feces, urine, saliva and diseased carcasses. Prions persist in the environment indefinitely. Research shows that plants uptake prions, and that prions can be transmitted to animals through ingestion of parts of such plants.
CWD-affected deer may appear normal and look healthy, but are still capable of spreading the disease. Affected animals eventually experience weight loss, decreased body condition and changes in behavior. They may stand with legs wide apart, stagger, salivate excessively, hold their head and ears low, have subtle head tremors, and drink water excessively. Infection with CWD is always fatal in deer species.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people.” However, animal studies suggest that CWD poses risk to some monkey species that eat meat or other tissues from CWD-infected deer. In areas where CWD is known to be present, the CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having deer and elk tested before eating the meat. The CDC recommends that not eating meat from an animal that tests positive for CWD.
For more information about precautions you can take to decrease the risk of exposure to CWD, see cdc.gov/prions/cwd/prevention.html. For questions related to human health, you may also call the Indiana State Department of Health at 317-233-1325.
BOAH strictly limits the movement of cervid carcass and body parts into Indiana to the following:
- Commercially processed meat, which may contain bone.
- Carcasses or parts of carcasses if no portion of the head, spinal cord or small intestine is attached or otherwise included.
- Carcasses or parts of carcasses that include the head, spinal cord or small intestine, if they are delivered within 72 hours after entry to one of the following:
- A meat processor inspected by BOAH for processing.
- A commercial deer processor registered with the DNR for processing.
- A taxidermist licensed by the DNR.
- Antlers, including antlers attached to skull caps, if the skull cap is cleaned of all brain and muscle tissue.
- Upper canine teeth, also known as “buglers,” “whistlers,” or “ivories.”
- Finished taxidermist mounts.
A person licensed as a disposal plant or collection service under State law (Indiana Code 15-2.1-16) may move carcasses and parts into the state if the carcasses and parts are moved directly to a licensed disposal plant.
Indiana DNR has conducted surveillance for CWD in wild deer across the state for more than 10 years without any detection of infection. DNR will continue its efforts to detect this disease in Indiana in the coming years. For more information on CWD, see wildlife.IN.gov/9650.htm
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) has been present in the United States for more than 50 years. EHD is caused by infection of viruses from the genus Orbivirus that are only transmitted by biting midges.
Not all deer that contract EHD die as a result of EHD. Many recover and develop EHD immunity. While deer mortality due to EHD may be high in a small area, large-scale, long-term, regional deer population decreases due to EHD have not been observed.
The variability of the disease is affected by many factors, including the number of insect vectors, virus serotype, previous host immunity and host genetics, and deer population density.
The onset of freezing temperatures often brings an end to outbreaks. Infected deer develop a fever and often seek comfort in or around water. Other signs include blue tongue, ulcers on the tongue, or an eroded dental pad.
There is no cure for EHD.
If you suspect an outbreak, contact your local DNR wildlife biologist. A directory is at wildlife.IN.gov/2716.htm
Humans are not at risk for contracting EHD.