Bovine Tuberculosis in Wildlife
What is Bovine Tuberculosis?
Bovine Tuberculosis (BTb) is a contagious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis. This long lasting, eventually debilitating disease can infect a number of mammals depending on the location. In Canada, it has been reported in bison, moose, deer, elk and cattle. M. bovis can also infect humans, however the human disease from M. bovis is rarer than the human adapted bacteria, M. tuberculosis.
The bacteria are transmitted by close contact, generally through the respiratory tract or by sharing feed and water. It is a difficult disease to recognize and testing live or dead animals for the bacteria can be challenging.
Why should we care?
Bovine Tuberculosis can have significant effects on agricultural economies and can impact wildlife management and public health. BTb is classified as a federally reportable disease and positive cases in livestock result in a control program led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Wildlife agencies are required to confirm the disease status of wildlife in areas where BTb is identified in livestock. To date, BTb not been detected in B.C. wildlife. For updates on the detection of BTb in cattle, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website .
What is B.C. doing about it?
The B.C. Wildlife Health Program, in collaboration with partners (First Nations, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and the CFIA), is conducting BTb surveillance by sampling hunted deer to confirm the status of BTb in a localized area of the B.C. interior: Management Units 3-12, 3-19, 3-20.
How can you help?
Understand the risks
BTb is a zoonotic disease (transmitted from animals to humans). It is recommended that rigorous food safety measures are followed while handling meat from harvested animals, such as wearing gloves as well as washing hands, knives and clothes in warm soapy water and/or a 10% bleach solution after field dressing and butchering. If you see any unusual findings, please take a photograph, save a sample, and report your observations. If you think you may have been exposed to BTb, contact your local medical professional.
Report sick animals
If you see animals that are in poor body condition, please report the animal and the location to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) Line (1-877-952-7277) or the B.C. Wildlife Health Program. If possible, include photos/videos.
When hunting, take the time to observe and only harvest healthy appearing animals. Always examine the lungs and rib cage of the animals you harvest. Because BTb is a slow acting disease, internal signs can vary. Advanced stages may show multiple small gritty lumps in the lymph nodes, lungs and on the inner surface of the rib cage. If you see anything unusual, take photographs, freeze abnormal tissue samples and contact the B.C. Wildlife Health Program. Keep in mind that a BTb-infected animal may appear healthy in the early stages of the disease.
Submit a head for testing
Hunters are encouraged to submit the head of any deer harvested in MUs 3-12, 3-19, and 3-20 for BTb testing. Please remove the head with three inches of neck and submit it at one of several drop off locations. The animal will also be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease.
Heads of harvested deer can be deposited in one of the freezers whose location is listed below. Submitted heads must meet the following conditions when being deposited:
- The head must be removed from the body, with at least three inches of neck still attached to it. Three inches of neck must still be attached as the tissues required for testing are at the back of the throat.
- Antlers must be removed. As freezer space is limited, antlers can be removed from the head either by cutting at the base of the antler or removing both antlers with the skull plate. The hide may also be removed. The top of the skull and the skin of the head are not required and can be removed.
- The head can be fresh or frozen but must be in good condition and not rotten.
- An ear tag must be completed with the management unit the animal was harvested in, a description or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinate of the harvest location and hunter contact information attached with a zap-strap to either the ear or the skull (if skinned).
- Heads must be placed in a garbage bag and the bag closed with a knot or zap-strap before being deposited in a freezer.
- Ear tags, zap-straps and garbage bags will be supplied at the freezer locations.
- For ‘European’ style mounts:
- If you would like keep the skull and antlers intact, carefully remove the top of the head you wish to preserve leaving the remainder of the head, including the tissues from the back of the throat as well as the lower jaws.
- Completed ear tags (see instructions above) can be attached to the lower jaws with a zap-strap, and along with all the attached tissues, placed in a garbage bag and closed with a knot or zap-strap before being deposited in a freezer.
Location of freezers for head drop-off are listed below.
Conservation Officer Service
3840 Airport Road
Merritt B.C. V1K 1B8
*Please call ahead at 250-378-8492*
Or, contact the BTb Program Coordinator to make arrangements:
Heads can also be dropped off at any B.C. Wildlife or Conservation Officer Service office during business hours.