U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Veterinary Microbiology (2011) 51:126-132


Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is endemic in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in northeastern Michigan, USA, and research suggests transmission to cattle. Prevalence of the disease in deer is estimated at 1.8%, but as prevalence decreases the difficulty of detection increases. Research suggests coyotes (Canis latrans) have a higher prevalence of bTB in Michigan than deer and sampling coyotes may be a more efficient surveillance tool to detect presence or spread of the disease. Coyotes possess suitable ecological characteristics to serve as a sentinel species, assuming transmission between coyotes is not significant. The question of whether free-ranging coyotes shed Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bTB, has not been previously addressed. We actively used coyotes as a sentinel to detect bTB in infected and uninfected counties in Michigan’s Northeastern Lower Peninsula. We determined whether bTB infection was present through bacteriologic culture of lymph nodes and tissues containing lesions and cultured oral/ nasal swabs and feces to establish shedding. Seventeen of 171 coyotes were M. bovis culture positive, one of which was from a previously uninfected county. All oral, nasal secretions and feces were culture negative suggesting minimal, if any, shedding of M. bovis. Thus, infection of coyotes is likely to occur through ingestion of infected deer carcasses and not from interaction with conspecifics. These findings support previous research suggesting that coyotes are useful sentinels for bTB. The use of coyotes as a sentinel, may allow wildlife managers to detect the spread of bTB into naı¨ve counties. With earlier detection managers may be able to take proactive surveillance measures to detect the disease in deer and reduce the potential risk to domestic livestock and captive deer herds.