Hunters can help control disease

Indiana’s Department of Resources is asking Bartholomew County hunters to turn in coyote carcasses to monitor for the presence of bovine TB, which can spread to domestic farm animals.

Bovine TB is an infectious disease that can be transmitted by wildlife, including badgers and deer, to domestic farm animals and even humans, according to the federal Department of Agriculture.

After a 2016 incident in which the disease was found in deer in Franklin County in southeast Indiana and subsequently on two farms there, the state for the first time is instituting a study of coyote carcasses to see if the disease is spreading outside that area into surrounding counties, said Joe Caudell, the state’s deer biologist.

Purdue University reported that bovine TB was detected in Indiana in domestic cattle in 2008, 2010, 2011 and most recently in April 2016. One of the locations was a captive red deer and elk herd in Franklin County.

The first case of bovine TB in a wild white-tailed deer in Indiana occurred in August 2016 in Franklin County, Purdue officials said.

All confirmed cases of bovine TB in Indiana have been from the same strain of M. Bovis, Purdue officials said.

As part of efforts to screen for the disease in Indiana, Department of Natural Resources representatives want to test coyote carcasses in several southeast Indiana counties, including Bartholomew, during the coyote hunting season which is now through mid-March, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Researchers have determined that the coyotes, who are infected by eating infected deer, are a sentinel for the presence of the disease and could help wildlife experts protect domestic livestock from becoming ill, Caudell said.

“Anytime a farm tests positive for bovine TB, you have to go in and test the wildlife around those farms,” Caudell said.

Part of that testing includes checking animals that might have eaten an animal that died of the disease — hence the idea of coyotes eating deer, raccoons, oppossums and other small animals, he said.

In addition to Bartholomew County, testing is being conducted in Decatur, Shelby, Jennings, Jefferson, Switzerland, Ohio, Ripley, Dearborn, Rush, Fayette, Union, Hancock, Wayne and Henry counties, which surround Franklin County in “C” shape.

The DNR doesn’t have an estimate of how many coyotes might be in Bartholomew County or the entire testing area, Caudell said, as the coyote population ebbs and wanes each year depending on trapping and other factors.

Coyotes are native to Indiana and don’t really have a predator that feeds on them, other than humans hunting them, he said.

In Indiana, hunters often seek coyotes during hunting season for their fur coats, which are sold, or just for the challenge because tracking coyotes is notoriously difficult, Caudell said.

Hunters may turn in carcasses with the fur on or skinned for the testing and frozen carcasses will also be accepted, according to the DNR.

Indiana’s DNR wants hunters to turn in the carcasses at a check station in Metamora for testing for the disease. Information from the testing will be used to supplement results from continuing testing of deer carcasses for the disease, DNR officials said.

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Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease of cattle. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) which can also infect and cause disease in many other mammals including humans, deer, goats, pigs, cats, dogs and badgers. In cattle, it is mainly a respiratory disease.

Evidence of bovine TB is most commonly found in the lymph glands of the throat and lungs of affected animals. This means that the bacteria, which cause the disease, are mainly passed out of the infected animal’s body in its breath or in discharges from the nose or mouth.

Most cases of bovine TB in humans are caused by consuming unpasteurized dairy products. The likelihood of contracting it from a wild deer is minuscule. There has been only one confirmed case of transmission to a human from an infected white-tailed deer. In that case, bovine TB was thought to be transmitted via bodily fluids from the infected deer contacting an open wound on the person during the field dressing process.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University

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To obtain a packet with tags and details about the coyote carcass program, call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 844-803-0002 or email your mailing address to [email protected].

Coyote carcasses may be dropped off at the DNR check station in the parking lot of the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site maintenance facility at 19083 Clayborn St., Metamora.

Open season for coyote hunting continues through mid-March.