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DNR Wildlife Disease Lab

The DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory is responsible for monitoring the health and well-being of the wildlife in the State of Michigan. This laboratory is known worldwide and provides detailed information on diseases in the state affecting its wildlife. The lab is housed at the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (DCPAH), located south of the Michigan State University Campus.  

Recognized as leaders in wildlife disease, the MDNR Wildlife Disease Lab had started at MSU (then Michigan State College) in 1934. By 1957, wildlife disease problems outgrew the original facility, and the MDNR Lab moved to a facility at the Rose Lake Wildlife Research Center. In August 2004, the MDNR Lab has come full circle and is back at MSU.

The MDNR has a long history of involvement with health concerns of wildlife, and the relationship between wildlife and livestock disease. The "Fourth Biennial Report of 1927-1928" states:

"As the value of our wild life resources increases, and as the deliberate management of those resources is intensified, we shall no doubt parallel the previous experience with domestic birds and mammals, and shall have to contend with an unending series of diseases and parasites.

Successful development of the livestock industry has been in large measure dependent upon the ability to recognize and control the many pests, parasites and diseases which attack domestic and range animals. It is now becoming evident that the diseases of domestic stock are often related to those of wild animals.

Foot-and-mouth disease starting in hogs fed on infected garbage, in California, recently spread to cattle, spread from the cattle to range sheep, and from the sheep to the wild deer.

Under these circumstances it is highly desirable that Michigan should develop at home, first class facilities for research in connection with the pests, parasites and diseases of game and other wild life forms. It should not be necessary for us to depend upon Washington, or upon laboratories in other states, for the service of this sort."

As recent outbreaks of "mad cow" disease, bovine tuberculosis, West Nile virus, and avian flu continue to make animal and food safety issues a critical national concern, the need for top-level animal testing facilities becomes imperative. Now, the State of Michigan has a new premier veterinary diagnostic laboratory that will provide rapid and accurate diagnostic testing on a variety of animal tissues.

Dr. Kelly Straka, Veterinarian in Charge of the MDNR's Wildlife Disease Lab sees the benefits of co-locating the agencies in one facility at MSU, "The new facility houses those dealing with animal disease, domestic or wild, under one roof. The lines between the groups are crossing, as a number of diseases are shared. When we work shoulder to shoulder, we have the opportunity to discuss research and collaborate, which helps foster new ideas. The new facility provides more space, a safe, modern environment, and the ability to handle the large volume (20,000-30,000) of deer heads. "

The state-of-the-art testing laboratory provides services in areas such as necropsy and surgical pathology, bacteriology/mycology, virology/serology, toxicology, nutrition, immunodiagnostics, parasitology, and endocrinology. The layout of laboratory space follows a systematic pattern for processing and testing animal tissue. The laboratory system institutes new biotechnological examination procedures, supports applied research projects, and facilitates automation and computerization. The five necropsy areas, comprising nearly 1/3 of the total building gross footage, are provided with sophisticated filtration and sterilization systems. The center also includes four livestock containment barns.

New information generated from the MDNR Lab and DCPAH is used for adaptations and improvements in programs for reducing and eliminating a variety of diseases in animals and wildlife. The facility will also continue to develop new and improved testing capabilities while expanding its capacity to meet growing demands.

The center houses a current staff of 115, including veterinary professionals and technicians, as well as 10 MDNR personnel and 1 representative from MDA. In addition, a setting is provided for the training of undergraduate and graduate veterinary students at MSU.


DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory
4125 Beaumont Rd., Room 250
Lansing, MI 48910-8106
Telephone: 517-336-5030