Alpena, Mich. – Hunters and landowners in northeast Michigan can
help monitor more than 400 deer that previously tested negative for
The deer were captured early this year at the Turtle Lake Club
in Hillman and were tested, tagged, and released.
The DNR is evaluating a blood test that allows for testing of TB
in live deer. Those seeing deer with ear tags are being asked to
notify the DNR to help track movement of the deer, and anyone who
shoots a tagged deer is being asked to take the deer to a DNR check
station for testing to determine if the deer has contracted the
disease within the year.
The deer were captured in an area known as DMU 452, which
includes portions of Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Alcona
counties. Although disease prevalence is showing a decline across
the region, this designated management unit – the heart of the TB
Zone – reflected a slight increase in the prevalence rate of TB
(the number of infected deer per 100 tested). The rate jumped from
1.2 percent in 2005 to 2.3 percent in 2006.
“It reversed a long-term trend of declining incident rate,”
Rodney Clute, the DNR’s deer specialist, told Michigan Outdoor
News. “We don’t test every deer, but it is indeed an increase.”
A one-year increase doesn’t reflect anything conclusively. It
could be that incidents have gone up, Clute said, or it could
simply be a statistical aberration.
About 15,000 to 18,000 deer are tested, annually, and Clute said
it’s important to remember that 98 percent of the deer have
negative test results.
He said it’s difficult to say a one-year increase of 1.1 percent
is too high.
“The potential to quickly change is what we’re concerned about,”
he said. “We will be testing as many animals as we can this year
and hope numbers drop back down.”
Approximately 75 percent of the infected deer are found within
Dr. Stephen Schmitt, a DNR wildlife veterinarian, said about 50
percent of the deer will stay within a 5-mile radius, with young
males traveling up to 15 miles.
“Deer don’t move a huge distance,” he said.
An increase in the prevalence rate could occur with favorable
environmental conditions, random transmission, or an increase in
feed piles, despite the current ban.
“To be quite honest, what happens from one year to the next, I
don’t get too excited about,” Schmitt said. “We will have to wait
and see what happens this fall.”
From 1995-1997, DMU 452 reflected an incident rate of close to 5
percent, more than twice the rate now being indicated.
“Even with the increase, it’s better than in 1995 and meets the
scientific criteria that prevalence is going down,” Schmitt
If data collected continues to show an increase in incidents,
Schmitt said the DNR will step up tactics already being
“We’re already trying to get the word out to use antlerless
permits and disease-control permits. Our enforcement of the feeding
ban will be more vigorous,” he said. “These are things we would
want to do anyway.”