November 25, 2013 at 3:41 am #1313MikeKeymaster
By Phil Bloom
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
“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
•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
Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources
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