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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Hunters need to be aware of deer diseases

During the 2018-19 deer hunting season, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources conducted targeted surveillance in northeast Indiana and other areas in the state for chronic wasting disease, a highly contagious, fatal disease they said could not be stopped from entering the state.

At the end of 2018, News-Sentinel.com and the DNR asked hunters to have their harvested deer tested for the disease, especially in the designated surveillance areas. While CWD had been found in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin, it has not yet shown up in Indiana.

Now, as we are into fall in the 2019-20 hunting season, the DNR has announced that Indiana hunters need to beware not only of CWD, but also two other deer diseases of particular concern: epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

CWD was first discovered in Colorado in the 1970s and spread to 24 states before being discovered near Indiana’s borders. The disease (also known as “zombie deer disease”) is a neurologic disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is transmitted by their feces, saliva, blood and urine.

Hunters in any states where the disease has been discovered, as well as the designated surveillance areas of Indiana, should have their harvested deer tested for the disease. If the tests are positive, they are encouraged to follow proper disposal protocol by calling Indiana’s Deer Hotline at 812-334-3795.

While there has been no evidence that CWD can affect humans, both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend people not eat deer that test positive. There is no known cure or prevention of the disease, but its spread can be slowed. And we continue to implore hunters to work with the Indiana DNR to take

this threat seriously and help to contain the disease as much as possible if and when it shows up in

our state.

EHD has been the only one of the three diseases to be confirmed in Indiana, showing up in central and southern counties. It is a naturally occurring virus that is transmitted to deer by an insect, a biting midge. The disease does not affect humans, and infected deer are safe to eat. As outdoor temperatures begin to drop, the risk of EHD will lessen.

bTB is a bacterial disease that can affect cattle, deer and other mammals, including humans. No cases have been reported in Indiana’s wild deer herd, but the DNR recommends hunters inspect harvested deer for lesions on the internal organs or inner wall of the deer’s chest cavity. If any are found, hunters are asked to contact an Indiana State Board of Animal Health veterinarian.

The DNR encourages hunters to wear disposable gloves, wash their hands, clean and disinfect instruments and cook meat thoroughly in order to avoid coming into contact with these diseases. While the DNR says prime deer habitat can be found all over Indiana, it spotlights the southern hilly areas of the state as ideal hunting territory and says the northeastern natural-lake counties of Noble and Steuben are also great deer producers, as is Allen County.

Following are the remaining 2019-20 deer hunting seasons: reduction zone; Sept. 15-Jan. 21, 2020; archery, Oct. 1-Jan. 5, 2020; firearm, Nov. 16-Dec. 1; Muzzleloader, Dec. 7-22; and special antlerless,

Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2020.

For a list of season dates, bag limits and legal equipment go to the Indiana DNR deer-hunting question-and-answer page at https://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/7389.htm

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