Comprehensive Guide to Deer Diseases in Michigan

Deer diseases pose significant threats to wildlife populations and have implications for hunters, conservationists, and public health.

Deer Diseases in Michigan

Understanding the prevalence, symptoms, and management of these diseases is crucial for maintaining healthy deer populations. This guide provides an overview of common deer diseases found in Michigan, their impact, and measures for monitoring and control.

1. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Overview: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disorder affecting deer, elk, and moose. It belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

Affected Areas in Michigan: Since its initial discovery on May 20, 2015, CWD has been confirmed in free-ranging deer across several counties, including Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm.


  • Weight loss
  • Stumbling
  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Drooping ears
  • Lack of fear of humans

Testing and Management:

  • CWD testing is available on a limited basis in areas with active surveillance.
  • Hunters can submit deer carcasses showing CWD-like symptoms year-round.
  • Test results may take at least one month to be processed and will be posted at
  • For areas without active surveillance, hunters can use USDA-approved laboratories for a fee. Instructions can be found at

Regulations: For regulations related to CWD, see pages 56-57 and 61-62 of the Michigan Hunting Digest.

2. Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)

Overview: Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis. It affects deer and cattle and can be transmitted to humans.

Surveillance Areas: Active surveillance is conducted in Alcona, Alpena, Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, and Roscommon counties.


  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

Testing and Management:

  • Head submission by hunters is critical for monitoring and managing bTB.
  • Deer heads are accepted statewide for TB testing.
  • If TB-like lesions are observed, the entire carcass should be submitted for testing.
  • Testing results and check station locations can be found at

3. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)

Overview: EHD is a viral disease primarily affecting white-tailed deer. It is transmitted by biting midges and can lead to significant mortality in affected populations.


  • High fever
  • Swelling of the head, neck, tongue, or eyelids
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Prevention and Control: There is no specific treatment for EHD. Reducing standing water to limit midge breeding grounds can help minimize the risk of outbreaks.

Information: For more details on EHD, visit

Importance for Hunters

Hunters play a vital role in disease surveillance and management. By submitting deer heads and carcasses for testing, hunters help wildlife agencies monitor the spread and prevalence of these diseases. Here are some tips for hunters:

  • Wear Gloves: Always wear gloves when handling carcasses to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
  • Field Dressing: Follow proper field dressing and butchering techniques to minimize contact with potentially infected tissues.
  • Report Illness: Report any deer that exhibit signs of illness to local wildlife authorities.
  • Follow Regulations: Adhere to all hunting regulations and guidelines provided by state wildlife agencies.


Understanding and managing deer diseases is essential for maintaining healthy wildlife populations and ensuring the safety of hunters and the general public. By staying informed and participating in disease surveillance, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts can contribute to the conservation of Michigan’s deer populations. For the latest updates and detailed information on deer diseases, visit the respective pages on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website.

For more information and resources:

Stay vigilant and proactive in safeguarding Michigan’s deer populations and natural heritage.


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