As deer stalkers and especially those with “trained hunter status”, we are required to inspect carcases carefully for signs of disease prior to allowing them to enter the human food chain.
Training on this important subject is given as part of the DMQ level 1 course but by necessity must be limited and cannot reach the standard of the qualified veterinary meat inspector. However with the experience of time each stalker rapidly knows what is “normal” when preparing carcases on the hill and in the larder. Any variation from the normal will be quickly spotted and from training immediately recognised. However due to the extremely large number of abnormalities which could occur in a carcase, there will be many occasions when the stalker simply does not recognise what the abnormality is or what its impact on the suitability of the carcase for human consumption might be.
If notifiable disease is suspected the stalker is required to contact the police or local Divisional Veterinary Officer. However in many cases notifiable disease will not be suspected and the stalker will be required to decide on the carcases suitability for the human food chain.
Up until now there has been no source of advice or help available to stalkers in reaching such a decision. However over the last three years we have been collecting data from stalkers throughout Scotland, offering to help them identify what they have found and its significance. This has been based on the stalker taking a photograph of the abnormality they have found using their mobile phone and sending it to us for examination. Where it is safe to do so a sample of the lesion can be collected and delivered or sent to us for pathological examination. The results of this are sent back to the stalker for their information and at the same time entered into our growing archive of data. This has resulted in the development of a significant pictorial data base of abnormalities together with confirmation of there cause.
The reason it is useful is because there is no record of the diseases which affect wild deer in Scotland. We don’t know which diseases are prevalent in Scotland, whether they affect each of the four species of deer or whether there is any regional variation in the prevalence of diseases. It is also important as a source of data for the deer industry and for training the next generation of deer stalkers.
The study is being carried out at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh at its base at Easter Bush, Roslin in Midlothian. This is a veterinary teaching hospital with staff trained to deal with all species of animals and backed up by a comprehensive pathological service and research centre. This makes us unique in our ability to deal with complex clinical disease investigations, including those in wildlife.
Our aim is to develop the data base to ensure it provides as comprehensive and clear an insight into the diseases present in wild deer in Scotland. Through articles and training programmes we wish to offer the data collected to all those who are involved in deer management in Scotland and ultimately for the improved welfare of our deer. If you would like to take part in this study then please contact us using the address below. We will then contact you and answer any questions you have and give you the necessary information on how to take part in the study. At this time we are providing the service free of charge, although funding is limited while we apply for grants to assist in the study.
This article was published on Nov 29, 2011