Environment

Hemorrhagic disease killing deer

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is monitoring the spread of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in the region and investigating possible cases in Vermont. New York has documented cases in several counties in the Hudson Valley, including counties bordering Vermont.

EHD has never been confirmed in Vermont but may occur here this fall. Vermont Fish and Wildlife is on heightened alert in the Castleton area where several dead deer have recently been reported. Unfortunately, biologists have not been able to examine any of these deer before the samples decomposed.

EHD virus is transmitted by biting midges, sometimes called no-see-ums. The disease is not spread from deer to deer, and humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges.

EHD outbreaks can temporarily lower a local population, but they do not have a significant long-term impact on regional deer numbers. EHD occurs regularly in the southern states, so some southern deer have developed immunity. EHD outbreaks occur sporadically in the Northeast, and deer have no immunity to this virus. Consequently, most EHD-infected deer in the northeast are expected to die. The first hard frosts kill the midges that transmit the disease, ending the outbreak.

Deer that contract EHD usually die within 48 hours of showing clinical signs. Outbreaks are most common in the late summer and early fall when midges are abundant. Signs of EHD include fever, hemorrhage in the mouth or organs, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. A deer infected with EHD may appear dehydrated and weak. Infected deer often seek out water sources and many succumb near water. Several sick or dead deer may be found in a small area, particularly around water. There is no treatment or means to prevent EHD. Dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals.

Sightings of sick or dead deer in Vermont should be reported to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department by contacting your local State Police radio dispatcher who will notify the nearest game warden. The department will collect samples from deer and analyze data from deer reports to monitor the extent of the outbreak and determine impacts on the deer population.

For more information on EHD, see the fact sheet from the Wildlife Futures Program at tinyurl.com/cyb2cy59 or visit Cornell University’s Wildlife Health Lab website.

Categories: Environment

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