Image from GrowingDeer.TV. Click here to watch and learn more about EHD from Dr. Grant Woods.
As hunters prepare to head afield (if they’re not already there) to their favorite deer-hunting haunts, the good news is that the fatal and cyclic deer malady, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), has not been as widespread and devastating as some recent years, especially in the whitetail-rich Midwest and mid-South.
Predominantly, this year’s major outbreaks of the virus transmitted by a type of biting midge have been seen in the upper plains states of North and South Dakota and into Montana.
However, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health reported EHD confirmation in a Muskegon County whitetail last week, the first county to take an EHD hit this fall, following an extensive outbreak across the southern portion of the state in 2012.
In western Montana last week, more than a hundred dead whitetails were reported in the west Missoula Valley. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is awaiting lab results to determine the exact cause, though EHD is considered the most likely culprit.
In the Dakotas, EHD impact this year has been significant enough that agencies have reduced the number of deer tags available to hunters in some areas. After monitoring EHD-associated whitetail die-offs in the northwestern part of the state, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department announced a reduction in the number of hunting licenses available in the affected area.
South Dakota GFP has adjusted the number of deer hunting licenses available in northern Perkins County, and 41 unsold two-tag antlerless whitetail deer licenses will be eliminated from Perkins County north of South Dakota Hwy. 20 issued as West River Deer hunting unit 53A-19.
And in North Dakota, state wildlife officials have decided not to issue the remaining 1,000 antlerless deer tags for units 3F1, 3F2 and 4F in the southwestern part of the state, where there have been ongoing reports of extensive whitetail mortality caused by EHD.
To the south, the cause of death of dozens of elk found in one spot in northern New Mexico remains under investigation.
Biologists for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish found at least 100 dead elk in a 1/2- to 3/4-mile area within the same 24-hour period. Tissue samples and water samples from the area were taken and delivered to the state Veterinary Diagnostic Services laboratory for analysis.
“At this time we’re looking into all possible causes, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease,” said Kerry Mower, the department’s wildlife disease specialist. “What we do know from aerial surveys is that the die-off appears to be confined to a relatively small area.”
EHD—often referred to as “blue tongue”—is manifested in whitetail, elk and pronghorn antelope and is typically detected in late summer or early fall. The virus is spread by a biting midge and causes extensive internal hemorrhaging. Many animals exhibit no clinical signs and appear perfectly healthy, while others may have symptoms such as respiratory distress, fever and swelling of the tongue. Due to a high fever and internal bleeding, infected deer often are found sick or dead near water. Usually, the first hard frost of the year kills the disease-carrying flies and marks the end of the spread of EHD. The disease does not affect humans.