Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Journal of Wildlife Diseases, (2001) 37(4): 755–760.


Copyright 2001, Wildlife Disease Association. Used by permission.


In order to determine the prevalence and distribution of the human pathogen, Escherichia coli O157:H7, in free-ranging deer, hunters were asked to collect and submit fecal samples from deer harvested during a regular firearm season (14–22 November 1998). Prior to the season, 47% of the hunters with permits in the southeastern Nebraska (USA) study area indicated a willingness to participate in the study. Approximately 25% of successful hunters in the area submitted deer fecal samples. Escherichia coli O157:H7 was cultured from four (0.25%) of 1,608 total samples submitted. All of the fecal samples that were properly identified (1,426) and all that were positive for E. coli O157:H7 were from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We were unable to detect a statistically significant geographic distribution pattern of E. coli O157:H7. The presence of E. coli O157:H7 in the feces of free-ranging deer has implications not only for hunters, consumers of venison, and others in contact with deer or deer feces, but also for the development of strategies aimed at reducing and/or controlling this pathogen in water sources and domestic livestock.