Wildlife biologist Chris Kreh usually sees a dozen disease related deer deaths in June and July. This year he has seen well over 150 cases.
A high number of white-tailed deer in Wilkes and Surry counties have been dying from a hemorrhagic disease. The viruses are epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue virus. Most hemorrhagic disease cases do not occur until August and September, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
“It’s a naturally occurring virus in deer. We just generally don’t see the disease until mid-august. It’s unusual to see it in June and July,” Kreh said. “The bad thing about it is that early in the summer, fawns are still dependent to the doe so the doe’s death intensifies the effect of the disease. The fawns won’t be able to make it on their own.”
The disease comes from biting insects known as midges. Midges appear depending on weather conditions, especially if there has been heavy rain fall, Kreh said.
“When we get a lot of midges, there are always a lot of disease cases,” he said. “Conditions best for midges are when we have a really wet spring followed by a hot summer. There is speculation if the mild winter we had last year played into there being more insects this year.”
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says symptoms in deer might include:
-Appearing to be bloated, thin and weak
-Foot, mouth and internal lesions
-Cracked or sloughing hooves
-Found dead near water from being thirsty due to the high fever
Other deer may not display any symptoms, said the Wildlife Commission.
This hemorrhagic disease is not uncommon and is seen every year, just not in such a high number, Kreh said.
“The number of deaths has been exceptionally large for the area, but the disease is not unheard of,” he said. “We had a fair number of deaths in 2007, but it’s been very quiet for the past five years.”
Hunters should not worry about dressing or eating deer, because the disease can’t spread to humans, said the Wildlife Commission.
“There is no risk to people or livestock,” Kreh said.
To report a dead or dying deer or a deer displaying symptoms, contacts the Division of Wildlife Management at 919-707-0050 or email@example.com
Reach Jessica Pickens at 835-1513 ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org