Wildlife Workgroup

an icon of the outline of a deer with antlers

a deer walking through a snow covered forest


To determine the risk from PFAS posed by human consumption of game animals such as deer, waterfowl, turkey, etc. and to understand the effects of PFAS on fish and wildlife populations.

The wildlife workgroup consists of representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). This workgroup interacts with other PFAS workgroups such as the Surface Water Workgroup.

Recent Accomplishments:

  • In 2018, PFAS levels were measured from deer at four locations (Alpena, Grayling North Kent County, and Oscoda) known to have surface water contaminated with PFAS and from randomly selected deer harvested throughout the state.  PFAS levels were non-detect or below threshold levels for all deer muscle samples except one from Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda.  Locations and levels of individual PFAS are documented in the 2018 PFAS Deer Technical Report
  • Norton Creek in the Huron River watershed was determined to have high levels of PFOS. PFAS concentrations in surface water and fish samples collected from the Huron River watershed through December 2019, including Norton Creek, can be found in the 2020 Report: Investigation of the Occurence and Sources of PFAS in the Huron River Watershed. As a result, in 2019, an evaluation was completed to assess PFAS levels in deer from the area.  Samples were collected and analyzed for both PFAS and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  All samples were non-detect for muscle tissue from the 20 deer taken from this site.  Locations and levels of individual PFAS are documented in the 2019 Huron River PFAS Deer Technical Report
  • Follow up evaluation of PFAS levels of deer near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda is ongoing. 18 deer samples were collected from hunters in 2019 and an additional 44 deer were sampled in late winter.  Results will tentatively be available in a report in late-fall 2020.

Next Steps:

  • Develop and implement a study plan for evaluating the risk posed by human consumption of geese and ducks that have been exposed to PFAS.
  • Organize a Fish and Wildlife PFAS symposium with the Great Lakes’ state, federal, and tribal natural resource management agencies regarding management actions and policies on PFAS and fish and wildlife.
  • Continue to work with other PFAS workgroups such as the Surface Water Workgroup.


  • 2018 PFAS Deer Technical Report - PFAS Levels in Michigan Deer and Eat Safe Wild Game Guidelines.
  • PFAS Levels in Michigan Deer from the Huron River Area. 


Ongoing Studies

  • Quantifying the Distribution, Movement, and Ecological Risk of Per-/Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in an Impacted Wetland Ecosystem (Ongoing through 7/2021)
    • Investigators:  Jason T. Hoverman, Robert W. Flynn, Maria S. Sepulveda, Matthew Hamilton, and Tyler Hoskins, Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Linda Lee and Chloe de Perre, Purdue University Department of Agronomy
    • Project Objectives:  This project will develop a PFAS food web and ecological risk model to understand how PFAS moves through all levels of the food web in the Clark’s Marsh ecosystem, from algae through turtles.  Information from this work will be used to quantitatively understand human risk from consumption of wildlife as well as the risk posed to aquatic and wildlife populations from PFAS in similar environments.
  • Fate, transport and bioaccumulation of PFASs in the Huron River Watershed (Ongoing through 2/2024)
    • Investigators:  Cheryl Murphy, Arthur Dan Jones, Amirpouyan Nejadhashemi, and Hui Li, Michigan State University
    • Project Objectives:  This project will look at PFAS uptake in the flowing water ecosystem of the Huron River Watershed.  A food web model will be developed to quantify rates of transfer in the food web, characterizing it to understand potential human risk as well as risk to fish and wildlife populations.  Additionally, a laboratory study will evaluate PFAS uptake in bluegills to assess mode and rate of uptake as well as how long it takes for PFAS to leave their system.  The results from this project may be used to guide strategic monitoring and help determine when the fish consumption advisory may be lifted, inform management, and ultimately contribute to public health decisions.

a mallard duck sitting in water; a flock of ducks in flight

  • PFAS Accumulation in Waterfowl Species Throughout Michigan (Planning in Progress)
    • Investigators:  Wildlife Workgroup staff from MDHHS, DNR, and EGLEProject Objectives:  Similar to the deer studies, ducks and geese will be sampled from areas of known surface water contamination.  See the Surface Water Workgroup webpage for the latest updates. Selected species will represent a range of foraging types to capture the potential differences in accumulation based on food type.  Details of this project are still in development and the study plan will be posted when finalized.

a canada goose standing in grass; a turkey standing on the ground

Additional research questions posed by the Wildlife Workgroup

  • What is the occurrence and distribution of PFAS in wildlife such as turkey and waterfowl and how does this translate to human health risk?
  • Does PFAS influence fish and wildlife health at the individual and/or population level?

Timeline of Accomplishments:

  • April 2019 – Wildlife Workgroup officially formed with members from DNR, EGLE, and DHHS. Began to formulate purpose and mission of workgroup and developed key questions to address.
  • May 2019 – Developed requests for proposal (RFP) for PFAS studies in Clark’s Marsh and Huron River watershed. Started development of workplan for follow-up deer sampling in Clark’s Marsh and Oscoda area (Iosco County).
  • June 2019 – Clark’s Marsh and Huron River study RFPs issued.
  • July 2019 – Clark’s Marsh and Huron River study grant recipients selected. Met with Wisconsin DNR staff to begin discussions on information sharing in the Great Lakes region as it relates to PFAS wildlife issues.
  • October 2019 – Norton Creek (Oakland County) deer results came back with below-threshold PFAS levels.
  • October 2019 – Purdue began Clark’s Marsh Study, Quantifying the Distribution, Movement, and Ecological Risk of PFAS in an Impacted Wetland Ecosystem.
  • June 2020 – Draft waterfowl sampling plan developed with input from DNR avian biologists and EGLE/DHHS toxicologists.
  • June 2020 – Huron River PFAS study with Michigan State University began, “Fate, Transport, and Bioaccumulation of PFASs in the Huron River Watershed”.

Workgroup Lead Name and Email:

Tammy Newcomb, DNR