The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
Along with all the other problems that come with drought, deer hunters and managers are now keeping their fingers crossed as we enter the critical period for a possible outbreak of EHD or Epizootic, Hemorrhagic Disease in the deer herd. EHD should not be confused with CWD, or Chronic Wasting Disease. EHD is cyclical, happens to one degree or another every year and can be especially bad in drought years.
According to Kip Adams, certified wildlife biologist and Director of Education & Outreach at the Quality Deer Management Association, "EHD is a viral disease and the most common whitetail disease. It's transmitted by biting midges, commonly called no-see-ums, and it happens every year."
Not every deer that gets the viral infection dies. Some survive and develop immunities, but many are in bad shape after four or five days. As the symptoms worsen fever sets in and the deer seek out water - that's why infected deer are usually found dead in or around water sources.
Most years only a few deer are killed by EHD or Blue Tongue as it's sometimes called. In 2012, Northwest Missouri experienced a drought and one of the largest deer die offs in modern times. Some places were hit harder than others, but some estimates were as high as 50% of the deer herd in localized outbreaks. That is not a big concern for deer biologists, because the threat is gone with the first frost. But the disease can be devastating for a hunter if it wipes out a deer herd in the area he or she hunts. It was 2016 before we fully recovered in DeKalb County from the 2012 die off. Adams says the same thing “Sometimes it can get really bad. 2007 was the worst year on record," but on a more isolated level "the Milk River region of Montana lost 80% of its deer herd." That's not something a whitetail population can recover from over night. The Milk River region will take years to recover.” He added, “Deer hunters in areas where HD has caused severe declines in local populations should consider decreasing the local doe harvest to help the herd rebound at a faster pace.” Lets hope we dodge the bullet and miss a big outbreak in the next few weeks.