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Through the Lens

Is EHD Rearing It’s Head Again?

Fri, October 04, 2019

It’s that time of year again in some parts of Illinois. The reports start showing up on social media, in gas station discussions, and as archery hunters begin to hit the woods.
“found another dead deer in the creek.”  “There’s a dead deer just at the edge of my pond. What do I do? “

Likely as not, the dead encountered was a victim of EHD. While northern IL has been inundated with rain, fighting saturated ground and some flooding issues, it’s been a completely different picture in other areas, especially southern Illinois where things are in a drought status.

I reached out to IDNR to get some hard numbers for this year’s EHD cases or reports, but at the time of writing, still no info has been forthcoming.

WHAT IS EHD?
According to IL DNR, EHD is a viral disease, spread by biting gnats, which can cause high fever and severe internal bleeding in deer. While often fatal to deer, EHD is not hazardous to humans or pets. EHD-like symptoms in cattle have been reported where EHD has been confirmed in deer. Cattle can be successfully treated with medications. EHD is often confused with bluetongue, a similar disease that can affect sheep and cattle.

EHD does not impact deer populations evenly across the landscape. A mixture of deer combined with the presence of the virus and midges (biting gnats) that transmit the disease between deer are necessary for an EHD outbreak to occur. Heavy deer mortality can be observed on one property or in one area, while the property just the road will be hardly affected.

EHD affects bucks as well as does, adults as well as fawns and yearlings, though individual deer vary in their susceptibility to the virus. Some deer become infected and will be dead within 48 hours, while other deer will be minimally affected. Survivors of infection develop immunity to the virus. Dead deer are often found near water sources such as lakes, ponds, or streams, though a deer carcass found away from water is also likely to have succumbed to EHD.

EHD-related mortality occurs every year, but becomes more severe during droughty conditions. Limited water sources concentrate deer near exposed mudflats (lots of those left behind from receding floodwaters ) resulting from receding water levels. Midges hatch from these exposed muddy areas, resulting in abundant insect populations.
There is no effective management treatment for this disease. EHD outbreaks end when a heavy frost kills the midges necessary for transmission.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A DEAD DEER?

Il residents and landowners are advised to report any dead deer they find if the cause of death is not immediately attributable to accident, road kill, etc.

There are couple of ways to do this. The first is to contact the IDNR Biologist for your county. That information can be found here.

Another option is to use the online reporting form found on the IL DNR whitetail deer website. Just as aside – if you are using the online reporting form, it does include an option to include a photo. That is helpful to biologists if you can photo the deer when you find it.  Another aside – I have no idea where the online report actually ends up or how often they are collected and monitored.

Once upon a time we were encouraged to report to our local CPO. Let’s face it, those guys are covered up, it’s not a law enforcement issue, and they will in turn have to contact the local biologist, so just cut out the middle man and report to the biologist or use the online form.

The online form can be found here.

As additional resources, here are two good fact sheets and references :
https://cwhl.vet.cornell.edu/disease/epizootic-hemorrhagic-disease#collapse13
http://www.growingdeer.tv/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Epizootic-Hemorrhagic-Disease-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Let’s us know dear Heartland friends and community – what are you seeing and hearing about deer in your neighborhood this fall?

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