Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) has been detected on a cattle farm in east-central Saskatchewan. To confirm that nearby wildlife remain bovine TB-free, the Ministry of Environment is testing samples of white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and elk in WMZs 37 and 49. Bovine TB has never been detected in wildlife in Saskatchewan.
Bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) is a contagious chronic bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. This is a different strain of bacteria than the one that causes TB in humans (Mycobacterium tuberculosis). The disease causes chronic debilitation and weight loss, and typically affects the respiratory system of affected animals.
Bovine TB primarily affects domestic cattle. Domestic species such as goats, pigs, cats, and dogs, as well as species of wildlife such as bison, elk, moose, and deer may also be susceptible. The disease can infect most warm-blooded animals, including humans, although cases in species other than cattle, elk and bison are rare.
Information for Hunters
Safe field dressing practices
While it is possible for bovine TB to spread from animals to people, it is extremely rare. Hunters should practice routine hygiene precautions while field dressing or otherwise handling wildlife.
As a general precaution, it is recommended that hunters:
- Avoid direct contact with blood, feces, and respiratory secretions of all wild game.
- Do not rub eyes, eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
- Wear dish gloves or latex/plastic gloves when handling and processing game.
- Wash tools, work surfaces, and other equipment with soap and warm water, then with a 10 per cent solution of household bleach and wash hands thoroughly.
- Work in a well-ventilated environment. If working indoors or in a poorly ventilated environment, wearing a mask will reduce your exposure to released aerosols.
- Cook the meat thoroughly. Cooking meat to an internal temperature of 74⁰C (164⁰F) destroys the bacteria.
Recognizing bovine TB in wildlife
An animal infected with bovine TB may have lesions that can be detected during field dressing and may be round, white, tan, or yellow, crumbly to paste-like, and gritty nodules throughout the lungs, the rib cage, or in the chest cavity. These lesions may be any size.
If you find bovine TB-like lesions, take a photo if possible and contact the Ministry of Environment inquiry line at 1-800-567-4224, or the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 306-966-5815.
Submitting your animal for bovine TB testing
The Ministry of Environment is conducting surveillance of bovine TB in wildlife populations. Hunters harvesting elk, moose, mule deer or white-tailed deer in WMZs 37 and 48 are asked to submit their animals for bovine TB testing. Testing is free and voluntary.
Submissions to test for bovine TB will use the same process as submissions for chronic wasting disease (CWD). To submit a head for bovine TB testing, hunters must get a unique tracking number by entering their harvest information online at cwdsk.ca. Heads can then be double-bagged and dropped off at any regular CWD drop-off location. A list of drop off locations can be found at saskatchewan.ca/cwd. Tags indicating the tracking number must be attached to the outside of the bag. Bovine TB results will not be posted online. Hunters will be notified if the animal tests positive for the disease.
Heads that are submitted for bovine TB testing will also be tested for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Hunters can use the tracking number they received when registering their submission to look up their CWD result at saskatchewan.ca/cwd.
Please note: Each self-serve drop-off site contains a kiosk and a chest freezer. Freezer space at high-traffic drop-off locations may be limited early in the hunting season when temperatures are not consistently below -10°C. Please call ahead to the associated phone number to ensure there is adequate freezer space if you are dropping off large elk or moose heads at a busy location.
Hunters who wish to have their deer, elk, or moose mounted can make arrangements with their taxidermist to pick up the head after it has been processed and submit it for testing. Heads with skull caps removed are suitable for testing.