October 7, 2020 - Wild animals in B.C. can carry many disease and parasites without significant effects. However, there are some diseases of high priority that B.C.’s Wildlife Health Program must monitor and track. These diseases include Bovine Tuberculosis (BTb) and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

BTb is a contagious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis. This disease has been reported in bison, moose, deer, elk and cattle in Canada. In response to cases of BTb in Cattle in the Nicola Valley (2018), the B.C Wildlife Health Program is testing wildlife in the area to confirm that wildlife populations are free from this disease. The risk is relatively low, but it is important that communities, especially hunters, are aware of the situation and know what to look for.

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. Symptoms of BTb include; enlarged lumpy lymph nodes, small pale-yellow lumps on the surface of the lungs and ribcage, and in later stages, weight loss and coughing.

CWD is a fatal infection that affects species in the deer family (cervids) such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou. The disease is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion, which can be transmitted through saliva, urine, feces, carcasses and even plants and soil. An infected animal may be contagious for months or years before appearing sick. Signs of infection in later stages include weight loss, poor coordination, stumbling and trembling. There is no direct evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans however public health experts recommend that any animal suspected or confirmed to have CWD should not be eaten as a precaution.

CWD has not yet been detected in B.C., however the disease is present in wild deer, elk and moose in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana. This disease could be introduced to B.C. through the natural movement of infected live animals or through an infected carcass brought back to B.C. It is important that everyone understands these risks and work together to keep CWD out of B.C.

Hunters are encouraged to submit deer, elk, and moose heads for testing to support monitoring for BTb and CWD. If you see anything unusual, please take photographs, submit samples, and report your observations to the B.C. Wildlife Health Program at cait.nelson@gov.bc.ca. More information can be found on the website: www.gov.bc.ca/wildlifehealth

Source: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/wildlife-health/wildlife-diseases/bovine-tuberculosis