Michigan DNR warns public of deer meat concern

Posted at 1:00 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 17:40:00-04

Researchers with the Michigan DNR and MDHHS made a quick call to warn hunters about a deer found with PFOS levels nearly twice the level at which action is recommended.

The warning, officially called a ‘Do Not Eat’ advisory, came down early Friday morning less than a month before rifle season kicks off. 

Hunters are being told that they shouldn’t eat meat from deer taken within five miles of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township. That includes venison that some hunters may have in their freezers. The area in question — rife with state-owned property north or Rea Road — is a hot spot for deer hunters, many coming from as far as Detroit, or even Ohio. 

According to researchers, the testing of the deer that flagged this study hasn’t even finished. In the coming days and weeks scientists need to look at other parts of the deer collected, but the initial testing of one specific deer’s muscle tissue sent up red flags.

“It was a very unexpected finding,” said Tammy Newcomb, the Senior Water Policy Adviser at Michigan DNR.

Newcomb told 7 Action News that her organization, along with MDHHS, launched an investigation into deer after they realized there was no research available about PFAS and deer. 

“We believe we’re the first in the country that has even looked at deer, so there is no other information out there.”

That’s concerning because there are ongoing questions about PFAS and it’s effect on people — that includes how PFAS moves through the food chain, and whether people are at-risk by what they consume.

PFAS has become a major concern in a five-county area near the Huron River after foam loaded with the chemicals were used at businesses, and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda — which is linked to the PFAS issues near the area linked to this ‘Do No Eat’ advisory.

Newcomb stressed that while the deer flagged concern leading to the quick release of the advisory, much more work needs to be done. She noted that 19 other deer in the area did not test above the 300 parts per billion threshold that triggers action. The one that tested above that level was found to have a level of PFOS in it’s muscle tissue at a level of 547 ppb.

Deer were also tested in Alpena, Rockford and Grayling — so far none has caused alarm like the single deer found in Oscoda Township. That said, researchers now have to look at whether more research and testing is needed in other areas. Wixom, for instance, is known to have a creek that was tested by the state and found levels at a record-setting 450 times what’s allowed in surface water. It’s not known whether deer will be tested in Oakland County where that creek is.

“We’ll be doing that work to prioritize and evaluate other areas soon,” said Newcomb.

The five-mile radius where hunters are advised to not eat deer meat can best be described as follows: From Lake Huron west along Aster Street, west on Davison Road, north on Brooks Road, east on Esmond Road, north on Old US 23, north on Wells Road, west on River Road, north on Federal Forest Road 2240, north on Lenard Road, north on Indian Road, and East on E. Kings Corner Road (along the county line) toward Lake to Lake Road, to Lake Huron.

MDHHS and MDNR advise hunters to dispose of any deer in their freezer that may have come from this area and do not eat it. 
If you have health related questions please contact MDHHS at 1-800-648-6942.  Hunters can contact the MDNR at 517-284-6057.