In conversations about wild deer management we are struck with a wide range of myths and misnomers about wild deer.
One of the more common boogeymen is the spectre of wild deer as a vector for foot and mouth disease.
We get the appeal - surely people will act and resources will flow if we can only get decision makers to perceive deer as such a terrible threat…right?
It is important to deal in facts about what the threat really is, and, put it into some context in the Australian environment.
Deer do present a 'potential' FMD risk. Most wildlife does.
More than one hundred species of wildlife around the world have been infected with FMD, either naturally or experimentally and all seven of the FMD serotypes have been found in wildlife.
All of the serotypes are endemic to domestic wildlife except for the SAT types in African buffalo.
Fallow deer are a known carrier of FMD for up to 77 days from infection – But carrier status does not equal source of infection and carrier animals are shown to have five hundred times lower virus levels than clinically ill animals.
With the exception of African Buffalo, carrier status wildlife has neverbeen documented to have infected a susceptible animal.
In the vast majority of situations, wildlife does not play a significant role in the maintenance of FMD infections.
Scientific evidence indicates that outside of the sub-Saharan Africa situation, effective control of FMD in domestic livestock will result in both the protection of livestock and wildlife.
A paper published in ‘The Veterinary Record’ in October 2003 examined the verified infection of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo with FMD in a zoo in West Bengal in India.
Two days after the appearance of clinical signs of infection the animal was dead. A far more dramatic outcome than has ever been seen in deer.
Again, we are not trying to “play down” the risks here, but they do need to be put into some reasonable context.
Alarmism serves nobody well.