Virus feared in deer deaths – 10/07/2006

  • November 25, 2013 at 3:41 am #1313

    from arufon
    By Phil Bloom
    Outdoors editor

    Indiana DNR
    White-tailed deer in Indiana are at an all-time population high, but
    a virus is suspected of causing the deaths of about 250 deer in the
    west-central part of the state.

    Jim Mitchell, Indiana’s deer management biologist, expects Hoosier
    deer hunters to have “an excellent season” this fall and winter.

    With one exception.

    Epizootic hemorrhagic disease – an acute, infectious virus spread by
    small flying insects called biting midges – appears to have hit 10
    west-central Indiana counties, where unusually high numbers of dead
    deer have been reported in recent weeks.

    “We won’t know until later how serious this is, but we do know it
    involves more than 100 deer and probably several hundred,” Mitchell

    As many as 30 deer carcasses have been found by hikers and canoeists
    along streams in the affected area. Although the dead deer exhibit
    characteristics of EHD, Department of Natural Resources biologists
    have submitted tissue samples to Purdue University for analysis.

    Brad Thurston, who has a deer farm in Owen County, said he has found
    dead deer in and outside the penned areas of his property.

    “That’s one we dread, a disease going from wild deer to ones in
    captivity, because (EHD) is the most significant disease in
    whitetails,” he said. “I think I’ve had seven deer at my farm down.
    You just don’t find them all. … Every neighbor I’ve talked to has
    been able to find dead deer.”

    If confirmed as EHD, it is the second occurrence of the virus in west-
    central Indiana in three years, but this year’s outbreak is affecting
    a broader area than in 2004.

    “In my opinion, it’s a substantial outbreak compared to 2004 and the
    one in 1996, but who’s to say how substantial it is,” said Roger
    Stonebreaker, the Department of Natural Resources district wildlife
    biologist for Vigo, Clay, Owen, Sullivan and Greene counties, an area
    basically between Terre Haute and just west of Bloomington.

    He has received reports of dead deer in those five counties, as well
    as from Parke, Putnam and Vermillion counties to the north, where
    Dean Zimmerman is the district biologist. Zimmerman said he also has
    taken calls from some of the same places as Stonebreaker, as well as
    from Fountain and Warren counties.

    “Yesterday, I had six or seven calls from hunters or landowners about
    dead deer they were finding,” he said. “It’s much more widespread
    this year, and I’d say a greater loss, a greater percentage loss in
    this area.

    “Part of the reason I think is the warmer weather conditions were
    good for producing lots of these biting midges.”

    EHD outbreaks typically occur in late summer or early fall and last
    until the first hard frost kills the midges that transmit the disease.

    “Typically we have the first frost here around Oct. 7, so that gives
    us another week at least,” Zimmerman said. “If the frost is delayed,
    we could be looking at quite a few more deer dying.”

    Deer die-offs, possibly from EHD, have occurred in different areas of
    North America since the late 1800s, but the virus was not identified
    until 1955, when several hundred white-tailed deer died from it in
    Michigan and New Jersey.

    EHD has turned up in varying degrees ever since from states in the
    Southeast to the West.

    If EHD is the culprit in Indiana this year, Mitchell said he doesn’t
    expect it to be “catastrophic” because deer in the affected areas may
    have developed antibodies from the 2004 outbreak.

    “Other than that, I think our deer population is near an all-time
    high,” he said. “We’ve liberalized the permits available (to
    hunters), and I expect people to have a terrific season.”

    Hunters killed a record 125,526 deer in 2005, about 2,500 more than
    the previous high mark in 1996.

    The early archery season begins today and extends through Dec. 3.
    Licensed bowhunters can kill two deer, but only one can be antlered.

    The firearms season will be Nov. 18 to Dec. 3, followed by the
    muzzleloader (Dec. 9 to 24) and late archery (Dec. 9 to Jan. 7)

    What is EHD?

    •Epizootic hemorrhagic disease is an acute, infectious, often fatal
    viral disease.

    •EHD is caused by the bite from an infected midge, or gnat.

    •Symptoms may include swelling of the head, neck, tongue and eyelids;
    respiratory distress; internal hemorrhaging.

    •Can cause death in one to three days.

    •Carcasses often found near water.

    •EHD does not appear to be transmissible to humans, either through
    direct exposure or in consuming a deer infected with the virus. But
    health officials advise to never kill or eat a deer that appears to
    be sick.

    Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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