October 8, 2017 at 9:47 pm #3598MikeKeymaster
Hundreds of deer in Pittsburgh region dying from viral disease
Sep 22, 2017
Since August, as many as 1,000 white-tailed deer may have died from a viral disease in the greater Pittsburgh area. The state Game Commission is monitoring the spread of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in parts of Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties. Today it was also confirmed in Butler and Lawrence counties.
EHD cannot be contracted by humans or their pets, but could threaten some livestock. Game Commission biologist Samara Trusso said the current outbreak is more contained and has impacted fewer deer than other recent flare-ups.
“Compared to previous outbreaks, and in the scale of looking at total deer numbers, this is a blip,” she said.
The epizootic hemorrhagic virus is common among North American deer but occurs more frequently in southern states where the small flies that carry it live longer. It cannot be spread deer-to-deer through contact, water or waste. Signs of the illness start about seven days after exposure.
Deer initially lose their appetite and fear of humans and grow progressively weaker. Symptoms include a disheveled appearance, lethargy, disorientation, drooling, bloody patches of skin and a bluish tinge inside the mouth — hence ‘bluetongue,’ a common name for the disease. There is no remedy for EHD, but some deer survive. Those that die succumb to extensive hemorrhages five to 10 days after contracting the disease.
Ms. Trusso said deer that die from EHD are frequently found near water.
“We can’t be sure but we think infected deer are attracted to water because they’re feverish and trying to cool their body down,” said Ms. Trusso. “They’re also dehydrated — it’s a hemorrhagic disease and they’re losing fluid.”
Three years ago a small number of deer died from EHD in a few southwestern Pennsylvania townships. In 2012 a large outbreak spread across Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Westmoreland, Cambria and Crawford counties, as well as the grounds of a state prison in Montgomery County. A 2007 EHD epidemic is believed to have killed 1,500 to 2,000 deer in nine counties including Allegheny.
“That was the worst we’ve ever had,” said Ms. Trusso. “In fact, 2007 was the biggest outbreak ever recorded in the United States. I was driving through parts of Greene county and you’d roll down the window and the smell of death was in the air.”
During outbreaks some deer become immune to EHD and pass the resistance to their young. But Ms. Trusso said EHD can kill indirectly.
“Their rumen — a part of the stomach that helps them digest all the green browse — begins to slough off and they may not digest well,” she said. “Late in the season hunters and nature watchers may see some emaciated deer and some may die in late winter. But generally if they make it to that point they’re going to survive.”
The major outbreak of 2007 had no long-term impact on the deer population, and Ms. Trusso said deer are expected to rebound from the current flare-up in 2018. An early archery deer season is underway now in the Allegheny County area, the statewide archery deer season opens Sept. 30 and the two-week rifle deer season opens Nov. 27. Ms. Trusso said hunters may find temporary pockets with fewer deer within the counties impacted by EHD.
Although the symptoms are similar to chronic wasting disease, a more serious problem for Pennsylvania deer, the illnesses are not related. The Game Commission is urging residents to report sightings of sick or dead deer to the Southwest Region office at 724-238- 9523.
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