MI: Incentive offered for TB testing

Lansing – Michigan deer hunters could find themselves with an
extra $200 bucks in their pockets.

On Sept. 23, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural
Development announced an incentive program to encourage more
Michigan hunters to have their deer tested for bovine tuberculosis.
Hunters turning in deer heads that test positive for bovine TB will
receive $200 for each infected deer.

According to the MDARD, 57 counties have achieved bovine TB-free
status, but there’s still a pocket of bovine TB in deer that can be
transmitted to cattle. The new incentive program is one tool to
help refine the footprint of the disease and protect Michigan’s
$9.2 billion beef and dairy industries.

“Some of the best hunting in the state is in northeastern Lower
Michigan,” Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said in a press release.
“Our wildlife enthusiasts can show they care about TB eradication,
and, at the same time, Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and
Rural Development will reward them for removing disease from the
landscape.”

Hunters must take a harvested deer to a DNR check station for head
submittal. The antlers can be removed. If the deer is confirmed to
be infected with bovine TB, the hunter will receive routine test
notification from the DNR laboratory, which will include an
incentive program contact number.

Notified hunters should contact MDARD with their confirmation code.
A form will be mailed to the hunters’ addresses for them to fill
out and mail back for payment. Upon receipt of the completed forms,
hunters will be mailed $200 for each TB-positive deer
harvested.

Dr. James Averill, of the MDARD, told Michigan Outdoor News the
prevalence of bovine TB in deer located within the high-risk area
of Deer Management Unit 452, which consists of portions of Alpena,
Montmorency, Alcona, and Oscoda counties, has averaged about 2
percent for the past seven years.

However, there are suspicions the numbers are not accurate because
many harvested deer are not turned in to check stations. With the
new incentive program, the prevalence estimate is expected to
increase.

“The likelihood is we’ll probably find more deer and the prevalence
might go up. Over time, it would go down,” Averill said, adding
that continuation of the program would lead to lower prevalence in
the future.

Currently, about 30 TB-positive deer are found annually. The MDARD
has set aside $20,000 for the new incentive program, enough to pay
out for three times the number of TB-positive deer currently being
turned in. Averill said the amount set aside is a drop in the
bucket compared to the $200 million spent since eradication efforts
began in the state.

Because two people have contracted bovine TB, Averill advises
hunters against eating venison from harvested deer until they’re
sure they will receive no notification of TB suspicions. He also
said cooking the meat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit helps guard against
contracting the disease.

Detecting the disease while hunting could be difficult, Averill
said. In a progressed stage of tuberculosis, he said, a deer might
appear thin and have a rough coat. In some cases, he said, lesions
in the lungs of a harvested deer might be apparent, but not
always.

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