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Officials: Bovine TB surveillance quotas may not be met

ALPENA — State officials are preparing for the possibility that bovine tuberculosis surveillance testing requirements, established in an agreement with the federal government, may not be met in all of the Northeast Michigan counties required to perform surveillance.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state must test at least 2,800 deer heads from the Modified Accredited Zone, which includes Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Oscoda counties.

The agreement also requires counties bordering the MAZ to submit 300 deer heads for testing, except for Presque Isle County, which is required to submit 500 deer heads for testing.

As of Friday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported 2,417 deer heads had been tested and that three of the seven counties surrounding the MAZ had met their testing requirements.

Presque Isle, Iosco, and Ogema counties have met their requirements, but 61 more tests need to be completed in Cheboygan County, 152 in Crawford County, 90 in Otsego County, and 20 in Roscommon County.

“We will likely not meet our goals in every county and that will prompt us to have discussions with USDA,” assistant state veterinarian and TB program coordinator Nancy Barr said in an email to The News. “As you know, we are already doing cattle testing in the buffer counties, so any additional testing we have to do as a result of not meeting our deer surveillance goals will depend on what county it is, how many cattle herds are there, and what cattle testing has already been done there. We will know a lot more when all the deer surveillance numbers have come in.”

Barr said state officials knew they were not meeting their requirements in December, there was a concerted effort in December to obtain more deer heads. She said state officials still expect the numbers to increase.

Emily Sewell, wildlife health specialist with the DNR, said in an email to The News the DNR collected deer heads as late as Jan. 4 at their hunter self-service drop boxes, and that those heads have not been sent down to the wildlife disease lab to be tested and counted.

Additionally, she said the check stations are open through the January late antlerless hunt, and that they tend to get some heads from previous seasons brought to the check stations during that time.

Sewell said the DNR won’t have a final report on the TB surveillance quotas and number of infected deer until March. She said no discussions would take place between the state agencies and the USDA until those final numbers are known.

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