A virus, called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, spread by tiny insects is infecting white-tailed deer. According to Greg Batts, Wildlife Resources Commission wildlife biologist for District 3 in North Carolina, “This is not a catastrophic event, by any means. This is sort of a ‘normal’ outbreak in terms of size. It is something hunters are going to notice.”
Because of the virus, hunters could witness a number of dead deer by the water sources or skinny deer in hunting areas. Symptoms of the disease range from loss of appetite to high fever, which results in deer seeking out fresh water.
“Franklin County has had more than 60 cases,” Batts said. Another 30 have been recorded in Vance County, 25 in Wake and a dozen or more in Johnston. “Hunters needn’t shoot deer because they’re skinny; survivors will return to corn piles to fatten up and will have antibodies against the virus, Batts said. “But if it’s a deer the hunter normally would shoot, there’s no reason not to.” Batts also revealed “Humans are not affected by these viruses, and the affected venison can be consumed.”
In addition to white-tail deer, other animals can be infected. Mule deer, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope are also able to susceptible to virus. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease was first reported in 1955, and it has been confirmed to be active in more than 30 states. While the virus is most prevalent in the Southeast, it’s also prevalent in the Northeast, Midwest, southern Canada and the west coast.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is transmitted most often biting midge and other biting gnats and mosquitoes. Typically, outbreaks occur in late summer to early fall (August to October) and cease with the onset of frost.
According to Kip Adams, certified wildlife biologist and Director of Education & Outreach at the Quality Deer Management Association, “while not usually a big management concern to wildlife managers, it can be a big deal for hunters.” In other words, a severe outbreak can ruin a season for deer hunters. Over the years, however, deer have been assaulted by repeated outbreaks. Thus far, regardless of how serious the outbreak, the deer will recover as they have for a century.
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