EHD: Deer Disease Impact Hunting, Management

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is actually a virus that affects white-tailed deer. The impact the disease has on deer hunting is relatively unknown, but outbreaks occur annually across the US and vary in the level of intensity. Though natural fluctuations in whitetail populations are a component of wildlife management, wherever the virus strikes the whitetail population declines. That has hunters wondering what they can do to prevent EHD and the associated deer deaths. I’ve seen dead deer as a result of EHD. Outbreaks are typically associated with hot, dry weather and the fallout is typically worse where deer congregate during this type of weather: water. The impact on the local deer population and the subsequent deer hunting season are exacerbated when water is limited on the landscape. An insect that is found near water actually spreads the virus. From my experience, it seems that bucks are more likely to contract EHD since the disease tends to rear its ugly head when bucks are running together in bachelor groups.

EHD: Deer Hunting Drops Source: “I feel the truth is that there are significantly fewer deer throughout much of this state. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) has taken a huge toll on our deer herd over the past two summers. I have talked to many hunters and have heard numerous, consistent stories about how few deer were seen during the shotgun and bow seasons. Furthermore, there are many stories floating about of landowners finding large numbers of dead deer on their properties this past fall. I help manage a 240-acre hunting club in Knox County. We keep track of the number of deer harvested, the number of deer seen by our hunters, and then calculate the average number of deer seen each day. That number reached a high of 15.4 in 2005 and this year dropped to a low of 6.8. We also found eight deer carcasses after having walked only about 30 percent of the property. I haven’t talked to a single hunter who stayed home the second season because it was too cold, but I have talked to people who closed hunting on their private property because so few deer were seen during the first season.”

What is EHD? EHD is an acute, infectious, often fatal viral disease of some wild ruminants, including white-tailed deer. This illness is characterized by extensive hemorrhages and has been responsible for significant epizootics in deer in the northern United States and southern Canada. A similar hemorrhagic disease called bluetongue also occurs throughout the U.S. and Canada. The two diseases are antigenically different. EHD does not affect humans, nor does it impact the safety of the venison consumed. EHD is caused by the bite of an infected midge (fly) and once there has been a hard freeze, the insects die off for the winter, eliminating new cases of EHD. It is the most significant disease of white-tailed deer in the United States.

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