Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease: Biting midges (Culicoides spp. ), often known as no-see-ums or punkies, are responsible for spreading the virus that causes Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in white-tailed deer. Contact with infected deer or midge bites will not transmit the disease. Midge populations peak in late summer and early fall, coinciding with the peak times of EHD outbreaks.
Because the virus does not survive in the deer’s decomposed bodies, the deer cannot infect other animals. Cattle can be infected by certain strains of EHD. In 2020 and 2021, deer in New York State were infected with EHDV-6, a specific serotype (pressure) of the EHD virus.
What Are The Symptoms of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease?
Fever, minor bleeding or bruising in the mouth and nose, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips are all outward manifestations of EHD in deer. Deer with EHD may show signs of weakness or dehydration. Deer infected with EHD typically begin showing symptoms 2-10 days after infection and pass away within 36 hours of showing symptoms.
Carcasses of sick deer are frequently discovered in or near water sources. Dead deer infected with EHD appears to swell and rot rapidly. Some areas may have a high concentration of sick or dead deer.
It is crucial to confirm the diagnosis of EHD when outbreaks arise since the disease is similar to other dangerous but rare diseases of domestic ruminants, such as Blue Tongue and Foot and Mouth Disease. Necropsies (animal autopsies) on diseased deer carcasses and viral DNA testing of tissue samples prove the disease’s presence.
Midges should be killed by the first hard frost, ending EHD epidemics. The incidence of EHD is rising in the northern United States and is already endemic (which happens regularly) in the southern United States. A high number of deer have been killed by epidemics in several states.
New York has seen outbreaks before, in 2007, in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara Counties; in 2011, in Rockland County; in 2020, in Ulster, Dutchess, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Columbia, and Albany Counties; and in 2021. The Department of Environmental Conservation researches and keeps tabs on deer deaths to learn about their effects.
There is currently no cure or preventative measures for EHD. Even while an EHD outbreak may kill off a sizable portion of a community’s deer population in the short term, it usually has a little lasting effect on deer populations in the region.
Having deer carcasses around poses little risk of EHD transmission to other animals or humans. Thus, there’s no reason to remove them. As DEC does not remove deceased deer, landowners are responsible for doing so on their own, taking the usual precautions such as wearing gloves and washing their hands afterward.
Deer in rural or sparsely populated suburban areas can be pulled to a spot where they won’t interfere with people’s daily lives while being scavenged and decomposed. Deer carcasses may need to be taken to a landfill in densely populated suburban and urban areas, and some Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators offer this service for a fee.
Indiana DNR Management
Due to the lack of an effective treatment for wild deer, the Indiana DNR can only monitor for EHD and assess its possible impact on local deer populations throughout the season. Approximately two weeks after the first substantial frost, deer can still be sick with EHD and may be found dead.
Because EHD is not expected to have a long-term impact on the deer population size,
- Hunters typically harvest fewer deer during a season preceded by an EHD outbreak. Deer die from EHD rather than from the annual harvest.
- When deer populations are lowered (e.g., through disease, high harvest, or other reasons), deer respond by giving birth to more fawns the following year (i.e., a higher birth rate), and typically a more significant number of fawns survive to the following year’s hunting season (i.e., greater recruitment rate).
- EHD outbreaks tend to be spotty and localized. Although EHD may be confirmed in a county, only a tiny portion of the county may be affected.
Indiana DNR may reduce county bonus antlerless limits for that county if an EHD outbreak is discovered early enough in the year. If an EHD outbreak happens after the hunting season has begun, however, the county bonus antlerless limits cannot be adjusted until the following year.
All known and estimated mortality is considered by the Indiana DNR when reviewing the effects of the harvest to set next year’s deer harvest limits, including the crop, known disease outbreaks, deer-vehicle collisions, and deer depredation permits. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources can change the following year if a county’s deer population has higher-than-average total mortality.