September 30, 2013 at 2:50 am #357MikeKeymaster
There’s something seriously wrong with Oregon’s wild deer: they’re
losing their hair, succumbing to cold weather and dying by the
hundreds. According to state wildlife biologist, Doug Cottam, the
death toll is large.
“For the last two years, we’ve seen about 50 percent of our deer
affected by it in some areas of Western Oregon. And that’s fifty
percent of the survivors that had made it that far. It’s a gloomy
The problem that has Cottam so concerned is called “Deer Hair Loss
Syndrome.” It’s a mysterious, painful lice infestation that causes
the deer to rub the hair off of their flanks. This week, wildlife
managers began capturing the sick deer using baited, mesh-covered
traps to learn more about the disorder.
Five traps have been set up throughout western Oregon where the sick
deer have been seen.
Last weekend, the first sick blacktail deer was captured and brought
to the new “Hair Loss” research facility that’s been set up at EE
Wilson Wildlife Area near Corvallis.
The young doe flanks are discolored – her hair turning a mottled
brown and black unlike the normal gray and black hair of a healthy
deer. It is the first stage of the “Hair Loss Syndrome.”
The EE Wilson site will be the base for a two-year study of this
problem. Soon, biologists will introduce the sick deer to several
healthy deer that have been captured from other Oregon locations and
brought to the facility.
OSU Researcher Jason Robison, says the speed of the lice infestation
has caught many experts by surprise and so far, there are many more
questions than answers.
“This is a real world problem that we’re having with our deer
population and a lot of biologists are starting to see it in
different locations. They’re very shocked that something like this
has been going on and they haven’t heard a whole lot about it.”
The first answers to this wildlife mystery could be coming in a
couple of months. In the meantime, the disorder continues to spread
and Oregon’s deer are at risk.
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