IT’S ALL IN THE PREP
The difficulty for many newcomers is that they are very unlikely to see any serious abnormality in the wild deer they despatch to be confident in their diagnosis, says Jon Snowdon
Jon Snowdon shares his advice on looking for serious abnormalities in deer carcases.
Lately we have taken out a number of deer from a small park to reduce the numbers in the area. I am always vigilant during the preparation of any deer carcases we handle and probably more so if they are from confined areas such as parks or farms – some of these are young animals from both this and the previous year. For some of these deer, we organise a carcase preparation day for stalkers who are interested in the process and what they should be looking for when they want to sell them onto the food chain as qualified “Trained Hunters”.
Deer, like all other animals – including farm stock, do pick up parasites and some of these can be observed during the inspection that is required before the carcase can go into the food chain. I have covered some of this in past issues of Sporting Gun and will not repeat what has been said there. The difficulty for many newcomers, who carry out the carcase inspection, is that they are very unlikely to see any serious abnormality in the wild deer they despatch to be confident in their diagnosis.
As you would expect, throughout my stalking career I have probably seen and inspected more deer than most who hunt recreationally, but I can still come across something that may test my knowledge. In these very rare cases my view on this is always to ask myself whether I would choose to eat it. I have never been concerned enough for the need to report a notifiable disease, such as foot-and-mouth or bovine tuberculosis (TB). Simply put, I have not seen any of these symptoms in all of the deer I have dealt with.
What I do see is parasites. The common ones are liver fluke and lungworm and both are common in roe deer, especially if they are on ground that is wet or surrounded by livestock.
So what do I see?
The lungs of a deer should be pink, spongy and have no hard lumps in them. I palpate the lungs in my hand to check all is as it should be. If hard areas are found, especially in the lower part of the lung and pale white or grey colouring is observed at the base of the lung, then it is lungworm. The worm lives inside the lungs in serious burdens. If the lungs are cut open they can be observed as small white threadlike worms often in large numbers.
If there are any swollen lymph glands, abscesses or lesions then there has to be the suspicion of TB, which is notifiable. TB is a respiratory disease even though in serious cases its effects can be seen in other parts of the body.
This can be common. If it is a heavy burden then the liver can be very swollen and almost look as if it has tumours on the surface. The more usual signs will be spots of white scarring showing just below the surface of the liver. If the liver is cut open then calcified blood vessels can be seen.
We have just inspected a liver that had a very swollen lymph gland, there was no pus and it was firm to the touch. The liver was slightly swollen, which could be the animal’s reaction to the start of the infestation. It was this year’s calf with very good body weight and it was showing no signs of distress or abnormal behaviour before the shot. It was inspected carefully throughout and showed no signs whatsoever of any other problems and I was happy it went into the food chain.
If anyone is in doubt then the best thing to do is get a second opinion from someone more experienced or a friendly vet.
In general, parasites are not a reason to reject the carcase from entering the public food chain. In these instances, and to abide by legislation, all that has to be done is to record what was observed on the declaration and in the larder records.
In a case where the deer has a heavy burden of one or more species of parasite – this can quickly debilitate an animal, particularly youngsters, and can lead to other infections taking hold because of the animal’s poor condition. I would advise that in these cases a careful and thorough inspection of the carcase, organs and lymphatic glands should take place.
Liver fluke can make the liver swollen and look as if it has tumours on the surface
Worms live inside the lungs and are small white and thread-like